American Academy Fellow at ICI Berlin
When Home is a Photograph: Kathleen Cleaver’s Albums of Exile
Leigh Raiford examines how former Black Panther Party communications secretary Kathleen Neal Cleaver has used photography to make “home” in the world. Through the close examination of an album of photographs Cleaver made of her family’s time in exile in Algeria and France, from 1969-72, and drawing on Raiford’s three years of working with Cleaver leading a team organizing and cataloging her vast personal photography archive (acquired by Emory University in spring 2020), Raiford considers the everyday image-making practices Cleaver has engaged to imagine, identify, create, fabulate, inhabit, leave and, sometimes, even destroy “home.” While Cleaver’s photography collection enriches our understanding of the Black Panther Party, the work of Black internationalism in the era of Black Power, and gender politics in the context of Black revolutionary struggles, it is perhaps best understood as a family archive. As such, Raiford reads the Algiers album as a Black-woman authored text, a model that offers an affective and personal history of a movement that has been largely conveyed via historical documentation.
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In cooperation with ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry