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Signs of the TimesThe Visual Politics of Jim Crow$
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Elizabeth Abel

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520261174

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520261174.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 20 October 2019

Restroom Doors and Drinking Fountains: Perspective, Mobility, and the Fluid Grounds of Race and Gender

Restroom Doors and Drinking Fountains: Perspective, Mobility, and the Fluid Grounds of Race and Gender

Chapter:
(p.122) (p.123) 4 Restroom Doors and Drinking Fountains: Perspective, Mobility, and the Fluid Grounds of Race and Gender
Source:
Signs of the Times
Author(s):

Elizabeth Abel

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520261174.003.0005

This chapter brings together sites of assimilation and elimination, beginning with the imaginative bedrock of Jim Crow: the restroom doors and drinking fountains whose parallel alignment, derived from and reinforced by the sexual division, affords the illusion of a stable binary. The side-by-side arrangement also indulges the photographic fantasy of a neutral position. This chapter explores how that fantasy was betrayed by the association of specific racial labels and bodies. It tracks the evolution of perspectives along a historical axis from the 1930s through the 1960s and across the spectrum of subject positions occupied by the photographers. At stake in the depiction of Jim Crow signs for women were the boundaries of gender, destabilized through the juncture of race and waste, and renegotiated by the camera's extension of the visual frame to embrace contradictions and contiguities. The juxtaposition of front and rear with the lateral structure of gender was an especially disturbing feature of racial segregation's geography in the eyes of another observer.

Keywords:   Jim Crow signs, restroom doors, drinking fountains, sexual division, racial segregation, gender, race, women, photographic fantasy, photographers

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