Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Art History and Archaeology


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-23-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Angela L Miller


This dissertation considers the relationship between embodied experience, subjectivity, and empathy expressed in artworks created and exhibited in New York in the early 1990s and linked with identity politics. I focus on works that represented or evoked bodies and elicited viscerally somatic responses from viewers. As I demonstrate, the multicultural and post-structuralist interpretive frameworks applied to these artworks hinged on implicitly antagonistic notions of subjectivity which undercut the works' affective potential. In particular, such models disregarded the powerful epistemological import of corporeality in favor of discursive constructions. Through three paired case studies, I investigate how these artists engaged with emerging discourses in queer, African American, and diasporic communities that directly addressed issues of embodiment, knowledge, and identity. Additionally drawing from recent writings in feminist and political theory on corporeality and solidarity, I argue that these artworks enact a cooperative conception of subjectivity, allowing for the possibility of loving exchange between subjects. My project shifts the critical focus away from interpretations of these works as merely signifiers of politicized identity and towards a recognition that the embodied engagement they demand can serve as a profound catalyst for empathy through a dynamic combination of both affective and intellectual operations.


Permanent URL: