Cosmopolitan Love: Contextualizing and Reimagining Race in America
This project was inspired by my personal experiences, different encounters that I had and stories that I heard. The idea of racism in America was not new, and so was the idea of fighting towards liberation. However, the concept of love as a powerful force that drove people to engage in justice dialogues and organize social movements was not familiar to me until the end of summer 2017. This new perspective, looking at organizing as an act of love, has helped me heal in many ways, while grounding me in my purpose and moving me to never stop working.
My Independent Study thesis has three parts: (i) critical comparison and analysis of philosophical race theories; (ii) a collection of fiction and poetry on race and activism; and (iii) an installation of drawings and texts that visualize different backbone theories of the project.
In my critical writing, I offer various definitions of love that are helpful in the context of this project. “Cosmopolitan love” is a selfless love that one extends to nurture the collective growth of humanity, to both those who are fundamentally similar or fundamentally different from one, both those who are kind or evil. An effective practice of cosmopolitan love would require strong understanding of one’s own limits and opportunities to grow simultaneously. To effectively practice cosmopolitan love, the white race needs to develop “privilege-cognizant love,” which is acting love out of the understanding of their privilege and socio-economic-politico power. For members of marginalized (racialized) groups, they need to practice “insurrectionist love,” which is organizing social movements, disrupting the racist structure and forming multiracial coalitions of resistance as acts of love.
The installation purposely breaks the gallery into two spaces. The first space contextualizes the racial tension in America, looking at historical and contemporary figures and events. The second space serves as a reimagination of the racial climate, portraying different powerful historical social movements. Each chosen topic for each piece aligns with a theory that I discuss in my critical chapters (see pamphlets for details). Spectators are asked to follow a specific viewing order, starting from the more confrontational materials to the more uplifting ones: from hate to love, from injustice to the never-ending fight for liberation. On the wall, corresponding with the suspended visual pieces are short poems from the poetry collection.
This project, specifically this installation, follows the steps in the Theology of Resistance: encounter – disrupt – reimagine – take prophetic action. I, hopefully, have touched on and communicated the first three steps. However, the last step – take action, is on each person individually to take on. I hope you leave this gallery with something in your heart and on your mind. I hope your heart would ache as much as that of mine, for both the unjust, and for the progress we have made so far. I hope that you too, will do something different.
Vy Vu ‘18
Advisors: Anthony Tognazzini, English and Bridget Milligan, Art
All images copyright © 2017-18 Vy Vu. All rights reserved.