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Writing Across Cultures

This exhibit features a variety of annotated photo essays from Prof. Vicki Russell’s “Writing Across Cultures” class in China at Duke Kunshan University in fall, 2014. The students are from a variety of backgrounds – seven from mainland China, three from India, one from Vietnam, and one from the United States – with varying degrees of English language experience. We decided on an informal approach for this blog and have posted the entries as is – all written “with an accent.”

The students in the class moved from analyzing a single iconic image to exploring how a collection of several images could relate to each other in terms of reproduction, appropriation, and/or manipulation. War, history, gender, and politics – students chose to critically examine a specific facet of one of these topics through their own diverse cultural lenses and the medium of photography and visual rhetorical practices.

What you see here represents their final class projects. You will see photographs you recognize instantly, others that seem only vaguely familiar, and still others that you have never seen before. Accompanying the collection of images is each student’s written critical analysis.

According to Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites in No Caption Needed, “Iconic images are revealed as models of visual eloquence, signposts for collective memory, means of persuasion across the political spectrum, and a critical resource for critical reflection.”

Keeping this in mind, we urge you to move beyond each individual image in this blog and critically reflect, instead, on each carefully crafted montage and the accompanying written text. All photographs, iconic or otherwise, tell a story, but when joined with other images they also create a new image – one that can definitely prove greater than the sum of its parts.