Wesleyan portrait of Henry  Washington, Jr.

Henry Washington, Jr.

Assistant Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Allbritton Center, 214


BA Duke University
MA Stanford University
PHD Stanford University

Henry Washington, Jr.

Henry Washington, Jr. is an interdisciplinary scholar of race, gender, and aesthetics in the postslavery era. His research and teaching draw on literary criticism, performance theory, visual-cultural analysis, and black feminist, queer, and trans theories to examine how dominant constructions of “difference” help justify the persistence of inequality in the era of inclusion. He routinely turns to cultural forms to mine their active role as perfectors of the associative link between Otherness and marginal identity through which this difference is made “real,” and to explore how exactly the resultant violence of the aesthetic might be reanimated in minoritarian art forms toward liberatory ends.

His book project in-progress, Looking to Be Included: Social Science, Black Imagination, and the Culture of the Criminal, 1896-, investigates the interpretive practices and political preoccupations that have animated black writers’ efforts to contend with blackness’s criminalization since the late 19th century. Concerned that the emergent cultural-scientific discourse on the criminal threatened to undermine perceptions of black people’s fitness for citizenship and empirical legitimacy, late 19th and early 20th century black writers produced a counter-discourse that called attention to the structural conditions obfuscated by the notion of inherent criminality, but often replicated its pathologizing habits of seeing the black female body as criminality's enabling myth of origin. The project puts this intramural drama at its center to consider: how did institutional aspirations shape postbellum black intellectuals’ habits of seeing blackness? And given the way in which contemporary black intellectuals sometimes elide contradiction in the work of black thinkers responding to the culture of the criminal in this era, what resonances exist between the imperatives of inclusion that bound black thought and aesthetic practice in the decades after Emancipation and the imperatives that guide contemporary efforts to fashion a usable past for black studies out of that earlier work in the ongoing era of blackness’s institutional incorporation?

His other writings similarly explore how different artists and people of color expressively contend with their pathologization and erasure in dominant representation. These works appear or are forthcoming in the peer-reviewed journals Women & Performance and Camera Obscura; the edited keyword collection Think from Black: A Lexicon; and the exhibition catalog for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive's New Time: Art & Feminisms in the 21st Century.

Academic Affiliations

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