Resurrecting the Black Body: Race and the Digital Afterlife
The first critical examination of death and remembrance in the digital age—and an invitation to imagine Black digital sovereignty in life and death.
In Resurrecting the Black Body, Tonia Sutherland considers the consequences of digitally raising the dead. Attending to the violent deaths of Black Americans—and the records that document them—from slavery through the social media age, Sutherland explores media evidence, digital acts of remembering, and the right and desire to be forgotten.
From the popular image of Gordon (also known as "Whipped Peter") to photographs of the lynching of Jesse Washington to the video of George Floyd's murder, from DNA to holograms to posthumous communication, this book traces the commodification of Black bodies and lives across time. Through the lens of (anti-)Blackness in the United States, Sutherland interrogates the intersections of life, death, personal data, and human autonomy in the era of Google, Twitter, and Facebook, and presents a critique of digital resurrection technologies. If the Black digital afterlife is rooted in bigotry and inspires new forms of racialized aggression, Resurrecting the Black Body asks what other visions of life and remembrance are possible, illuminating the unique ways that Black cultures have fought against erasure and oblivion.
About the Author
Tonia Sutherland is Assistant Professor of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Praise for Resurrecting the Black Body: Race and the Digital Afterlife
"In Resurrecting the Black Body, Tonia Sutherland intricately examines Black embodiment, death and remembering, specifically the effects that inclusion and visibility within the digital archival record can have on individuals and the collective. Sutherland argues for autonomy and imagination in determining the Black digital afterlife."
— Ms. Magazine