Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > POLICING THE POST-RACIAL: VISUAL RHETORICS OF RACIAL BACKLASH

Policing the Post-Racial examines the visual rhetorics of racial backlash that emerged in response to both the Obama administration and the Black Lives Matter movement. Policing the Post-Racial tracks the ways in which the post-racial, a unique conjunctural moment emerging around the election of President Barack Obama, became subject to a variety of rhetorical strategies of visual policing. Situated at the intersection of rhetorical studies and media studies, this dissertation enquires into the role that visual, digital, and surveillant media play in the technological and symbolic formation of racialized structures of policing. I engage with four primary case studies: the visual rhetoric of the Blue Lives Matter movement, the 2012 film End of Watch, pro-and-anti Obama memes, and photoshopped Black Lives Matter protest signs. Policing the Post-Racial studies how visual rhetorics of policing mobilize images of black bodies to constitute ambivalent economies of affective attachment which adapt white supremacist visual rhetorics to the discursive constraints of the post-racial era. I argue that during the Obama administration, police officers became visual signifiers both of white sovereignty in decline and the reverse racism supposedly propagated by critics of police violence. Within visually saturated digital enclaves of white backlash, images and videos of police officers, critics of police, and victims of police violence, functioned as potent rhetorical resources for white audiences seeking to contain and police the threat of the post-racial.