American politics, race and racism, visual politics, political theory
Joshua Plencner joined the Department of Politics in September 2015 after completing his PhD in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oregon in December 2014. His research explores the intersection American visual culture and the politics of race, with specializations in the study of racial formation in popular culture, affect theory, comics studies, and American Political Development.
As a bridge between activism and academics, he sees the classroom as an integral component of his commitment to doing political work that matters. With a background teaching the politics of art and film, at Drexel he teaches a range of courses in American politics, public policy, political thought, and research design.
His current book project, tentatively titled “Four-Color Visions: Race and Origins in American Superhero Comic Books,” studies the phenomenon of superhero comic book origin stories as a site of unique political tensions regarding popular understandings of race and power in 20th and 21st century American culture. Through an interdisciplinary analysis drawing on insights from politics, literature, and art history, he develops a novel account of the historical negotiation of whiteness in superhero comic books, focusing in particular on the formal visual and narrative techniques used to produce, defend, and critique hegemonic whiteness across an expanse of more than seventy years of superhero comics publishing history.
Other current working projects include a book chapter on notions of “the sacred” and public mourning in Captain America comics, a book chapter on the visual construction of contemporary Southern racism in and around recent anti-Confederate flag activism, as well an article analyzing the American reception of Charlie Hebdo cartoons following the January 2015 attack on the magazine’s Paris office.
Race and popular visual culture, comics studies, affect theory, visual theory and methods