Spectatorial Splitting and Transcultural Seeing in the Age of Pandemics

Berry, Josephine. 2021. Spectatorial Splitting and Transcultural Seeing in the Age of Pandemics. In: Saul Newman and Tihomir Topuzovski, eds. The Posthuman Pandemic. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781350239081 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This article considers the role played by western art in co-constructing the racial regime, a political-symbolic order whose ethical justification of the unsustainable extraction of value from all other (Non)life has itself helped to create the destabilised conditions in which the zoonotic transmission of disease occurs. I argue that the COVID 19 virus compels art institutions, and by extension art itself, to address the spectator as the split subject of universal reason and biological or ‘bare life’ thereby creating a rhizomatic link between different ontological states of humanness. While the virus has in so many ways retraced the differentials of race and class, its yoking together of post-Enlightenment and decolonial ways of seeing and being seen is shaking up the western liberal regime of universality which produces such differentials in the first place. We might see in these tremors the prospect of a more truly transcultural perception that could help to dismantle the bourgeois liberal aesthetic regime and its reliance upon the delusion of universality.

Item Type:

Book Section


pandemic, biopower, decolonial theory, zoonotic disease, racial capitalism, art history, COVID-19

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


23 March 2021Accepted
30 December 2021Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Apr 2021 13:40

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2022 01:26



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