ROUNDTABLE | Group Practices: New Diversity Institutions

Chair: Camara Dia Holloway, University of Delaware

A keyword that emerged from American liberal circles of the 1970s and that subsequently gained purchase in the eighties, diversity describes an environment in which individuals are treated equitably and in which socially recognized differences–cultural, ethnic, gendered, national, racial, religious, sexual–are respected. While the desire for diversity is far from universal and its benefits and outcomes questioned in some quarters, diversity is, indisputably, a widely articulated goal of most mainstream private and public institutions in the United States.

This panel’s papers will present newly forming structures and sites of identity, designed to foreground and promote the discussion of diversity within art history and beyond. As categories, the minority identities discussed here–African-American, Asian-American, Latino, and mixed race–are represented in the academy, occupational home to each of the panel’s speakers. But, with their projects–artistic, collective, curatorial, historical–each speaker seeks to expand the understanding of identity and identification beyond mere familiar group designations. Institution-building within the institution, they challenge the entity we often call the “establishment,” and in the process, invariably raise questions about the institutional histories, networks, and identity politics of the bastions of art.


  • Robb Hernandez, The Latina/o Studies Working Group

Robb Hernandez is the director of The Latina/o Studies Working Group. The Working Group is a bi-monthly, interdisciplinary gathering of University of Maryland graduate students, usually but not strictly in the humanities, arts and social sciences, interested in discussing, reading and thinking through issues in Latina/o Studies. The Working Group is informal and intended to give graduate students the opportunity to engage in new works, lively debates and support new critical scholarship in U.S. Latina/o Studies. Hernandez is also the managing editor of “Latinidades: A Working Paper Series on U.S. Latina/o Studies.”

  • John Jennings, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

John Jennings’ work considers the ways that African Americans have been depicted in comics and the under-representation of African American popular artists. As a curator of shows about the comics medium, as an advocate for unrecognized African American comics creators, and as a scholar/artist, he is dedicated to using the comics medium to interrogate issues of equity, representation, and also to examine various facets of black visual culture.

In his series of Afrofuturist images Matterz of the Fact, Jennings uses the cyborg body as a metaphor to underscore the commodification of the black image. The graphic novel The Hole: Consumer Culture, Vol. 1, that Jennings co-authored with Damian Duffy explores similar themes. With his work and other activities, he seeks to foreground the diverse narratives that occur when an “invisible“ segment of the population puts pencil to paper and speaks its mind through the visual language of comics.

  • Laura Kina, Critical Mixed Race Studies Association

Laura Kina is a visual artist, independent curator, and scholar whose research centers on Asian American and Critical Mixed Race Studies. Kina has been involved in Chicago’s Asian American Arts community since the early 90s and is currently an arts advisory committee member of the Mixed Heritage Center in Seattle, a project of the Mavin Foundation, and the Midwest representative for the newly formed Diasporic Asian Arts Network.

Her current projects include co-curating an exhibition War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art for the DePaul University Art Museum in Chicago (2011) and the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle (2012) and organizing a national Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference (Nov. 2010 DePaul University). Kina’s Loving Series is currently on view in Embracing Ambiguity: Faces of the Future at Cal State Fullerton’s Main Art Gallery and her Devon Avenue Sampler series recently debuted in New Delhi and Mumbai, India.

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