An Uncanny Insurrection: Debating Negativity in the Work of Kara Walker

Melanie Bourke


Most well known for her large-scale silhouette installations, Kara Walker offers a critique of African-American history, as well as current cultural conditions, through a series of images that are a mixture of beautiful and grotesque, tranquil and violent, real and fantasized. Her work has provoked both criticism and commendation. In this paper, I bring Deborah Britzman’s (2009) educational theory into conversation with Mark Reinhardt’s (2007) aesthetic theory to examine the debates around Walker’s work through the questions: How might we read the anxieties brought about by Walker’s work? And, what might her work bring to bear on education?

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