With Care and Context

I use images all the time in class. But what about images that could cause harm? Check out my new Hybrid Pedagogy article, “With Care and Context” where I reflect on viewing lynching photographs as an undergraduate and how my thinking about the merits of teaching with such images has evolved over time.

I close my article with a few specific takeaways that I want to include here:

  1. Ask yourself if showing the potentially harmful image is truly necessary. Does presenting such images prioritize the learning experiences of white students over their classmates of color? Are there ways you can convey similar ideas without showing the image?
  2. Reflect on how these images fit with the rest of your course. Are most of your discussions of marginalized groups focused on pain and trauma? If so, consider how you might emphasize narratives or images of resistance, resilience, or joy.
  3. Provide students a chance to opt-out of the in-class viewing. Better yet, due to classroom power dynamics, try framing this as an “opt-in” rather than an “opt-out” experience. Try listing that day as “optional” on the syllabus or consider scheduling a time outside of your regular class session.
  4. Prepare your students beforehand. Provide ample context for what students will be seeing before presenting the images. Again, this context can frame how your students experience these images and help undermine their dehumanizing potential.
  5. Clearly state and contextualize the dehumanizing work that the image is doing. Remind students of the personhood of those being represented in the image.
  6. Maintain a posture of care. Share about your experience viewing the image and acknowledge that the experience of viewing the image will be different for different people. Though it can be harder in larger classes, be sure to check-in with your students before, during, and after the experience. Consider using small groups or “free writes” to provide students a more intimate space to process what they are learning.
  7. Keep working at it. Giving careful consideration to the images you use in class takes time and persistence, but it’s worth it!

Check out the rest of the article and let me know what you think!

I want to say a big thank you to all the people at Hybrid Pedagogy who made the article better, especially Managing Editor Bethany Thomas and reviewers Brandon Morgan and Daniel Lynds. Thanks for making my first time with a “double-open peer review” process a great one! I also want to say thanks to my wonderful friends and colleagues here at UVA who gave me helpful feedback early on in the process: Gillet Rosenblith, Monica Blair, Allison Kelley, and Grace Hale. And finally, a special shoutout for the Scholars’ Lab and especially Brandon Walsh for pointing me toward Hybrid Pedagogy and digital pedagogy in general!