Virginia Thomas

Virginia Thomas is a scholar and teacher of race, gender, sexuality, and visuality in US culture and history.  She received her PhD in American Studies and MA in Public Humanities at Brown University. She joins Rice after serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown in Spring 2020. Her research, teaching, and public humanities work examines aesthetic and material relationships within and outside white property-relations, and analyzes the potential of black, brown, and queer kinships to structure more livable worlds out of existing conditions.

At Rice, Virginia will advance her current book project, tentatively titled Dark Trees: Lynching Aesthetics in Visual Grammars of Family. Dark Trees examines the centrality of lynching aesthetics to white family visual rhetorics and considers the ways Black, environmentally-just world-making aesthetics take up lynching’s visual schema. It argues that we need not return to the original site of suffering to apprehend lynchings’ logics, rather, we can turn to more mundane photographs for a deeper engagement with how lynching shapes racial, gendered, and sexual politics of the family. Dark Trees demonstrates that intimate, domestic forms of violence foster environments for spectacular formations of violence to emerge and, also, that subtle registers of liberation permeate the aesthetics of the everyday. Virginia will also begin preliminary research on her second project which reframes intergenerational sexual abuse in the family within the context of the history of slavery. This project also examines queer relational practices and aesthetic visions for alternative kinship models that foster intergenerational growth. 

Her work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and she has published in the feminist review. She is currently building a participatory queer oral history project with the Providence Public Library called the Queer StoRIes Project.

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