PRINT May 1993


Bruce W. Ferguson

“RACE,” “SEX,” AND “GENDER” have lately become neutral, even stylish terms for the real conditions of active racism, boundless homophobia, and institutionalized misogyny that threaten the fabric of urban democracy. While such terms—and why not add “difference” and “otherness” to the melting pot?—designate legitimate difficulties, as appropriated by “cold” academics their uses and meanings are shifted and diluted. All too often the effect is to neutralize authentic suffering, textualizing the contradictions and challenges of prejudice. At the same time, the ensuing “political correctness” offers a handy target to the right, which casts it as a sign of intolerance rather than of the utopian democracy in whose defense it might more appropriately be summoned.

To navigate this territory—indeed to posit in the sphere of visual culture a space where genuine resistance is still possible—is, I think,

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