On Diasporic Intervisuality: Code-Switching for liberation



How do we, as black CC’s, read imagery?

What further in-depth ‘decoy knowledge’ do meme culture and gif’s offer us as a form of resistance?

Intervisuality, (or visual intertextuality) was first introduced by Nicholas Mirzoeff, the theory refers to the visual cross-referencing between various media while attempting to explain how viewers interpret images in light of their visual texts (Mirzoeff, 2000). In the context of the black CC[1], the term ‘Diasporic Intervisuality’ seems fitting to the act of reading the images we receive that offer ‘decoy knowledge’, that operates outside the frame[2], and is not necessarily translatable visually. (Le Melle T.)

By employing Diasporic intervisuality, the black CC in the UK navigates US and multiple shared diasporic imagery circulating the (cyber)space, Code-switching amongst the black diaspora has been a traditional skill of survival. Martine Syms states: ‘Code-switching liberates us. Black creators and audiences have understood how to use double entendre, politics, incongruity and polyphony in making meaning.’ (Syms, M)

Fred Moten argues that ‘there is always something left to be theorised or looked into beyond the image and beyond the frame’. (Bradley, R) There is always something left to be read and interpreted from circulated images of blackness. The black CC once given a point of departure to begin to navigate strategically on the Web 2.0 is not only producing cultural content, but also receiving and absorbing information and responding to imagery. Not only is it important to navigate safely but also reading and unpacking imagery plays hand in hand within these acts of communication between black CC’s. Martine Syms here shares her thoughts on black users reading of imagery:

‘‘Given this radical, black tradition of hyper literacy I propose a recasting of black “users” as “readers.” This is why I named my design studio Dominica Publishing. I want to make the popular web more like books—cumulative, eclectic, edited, artful. I care about the reader. The reader is always an individual, alone, awash in blue light staring at a screen. My work is for the reader. I want the web to be worth her time.’’ (Syms, M)

Recently, thoughts on Diasporic Intervisuality have increased attending ‘Untitled Talks:’ at Iniva with Rochelle White, Abondance Matanda & BBZ last month. In particular, the diasporic intervisuality in the context of the afro-caribbean community and how we archive ourselves, the generations before us and the generations to come, such as the work of ‘Black in the Day’.

How do we carry on our inherited traditions that are passed down to us? How have these traditions evolved through time, with the new forms and mediums of communication URL, through memes and gifs, emojis, and who chooses what we continue to practice and what we will leave in the past?

[2]Within this writing, the frame signifies here as the intangible ‘asymmetrical power structure’ of the whiteness and the tangible screen of devices; such as the mobile phone screen, the laptop screens, tablet screens, all ‘black mirrors’. Here Blackness is spoken of as being inserting within a screen and the manner in which it is circulated and/or navigated within the frame.



Bradley, R (2016) (2016) Technology NOW: Blackness on the internet – Legacy Russell,  Panel discussion

Available at: https://vimeo.com/196206409

(Accessed on: 16-12-2016)

Le Melle, T (2016) Technology NOW: Blackness on the internet –Legacy Russell, Panel discussion

Available at: https://vimeo.com/196206409

(Accessed on: 16-12-2016)

Mirzoeff, 2000 in Browne, S (2015) Dark Matters: On Surveillance of Blackness. UK: Duke University Press, p.3  

Syms, M (2013) Black Vernacular: New Media Available at: http://martinesyms.com/black-vernacular-reading-new-media/ (Accessed: 08-12-16)