W. J. T. Mitchell Quotes

Images are not only visual. They’re also auditory, they involve sensuous impressions, bundles of information that come to us through our senses, and mainly through seeing and hearing: the audio-visual field.

When students scoff at the idea of a magical relation between a picture and what it represents, ask them to take a photograph of their mother and cut out the eyes.

Writing, in its physical, graphic form, is an inseparable suturing of the visual and the verbal, the “imagetext” incarnate

The great moment I think in human consciousness is when you realize that the object in front of you is perhaps not nameable or is new, it does not fit a stereotype, and so you need to reconfigure your whole structure of knowledge to account for it.

Stereotypes are ways of making extremely primitive and simple differentiations. Differentiations of gender, race, class, social status – so ordinary social life is very much built upon a whole repertoire of stereotypes we carry around. And those are immediately laminated onto people, and it isn’t just visual.

I know stereotypes have a bad reputation, people say, “Oh, you shouldn’t stereotype people,” but I think it’s important to recognize that we couldn’t function in the world without stereotypes.

I think its a fundamental feature of images that they move from one medium to another. And this has become hyper-evident in our time with the computer, which is a kind of master-medium also and allows us to transfer data of all kinds from one platform to another, turning sounds into sights or language into image. The computer has made something that is very old evident in a new way.

Imperialism, or the conquest and colonization of other populations, other peoples, has had as one of its side effects the growth of a discourse of objectivity. That is, when you encounter something new, something strange, something different, you have to find categories for it, you have to come to terms with new objects.

Stereotypes, I want to say, have to be thought of not just as these invidious, bad things that we could get rid of, but as images that we cannot get rid of, that we have to live with.

Obviously invidious and prejudicial stereotypes need to be deconstructed and overcome, but it’s not that they can be destroyed. I think that would be an illusion to think that we can somehow get rid of these basic search templates that allow us to sort out our social lives and to sort out the material world as well.

I see stereotypes as fundamental and inescapable and not as something that is… The kind of common view is “Oh, we shouldn’t think in stereotypes,” and I think the reality is we can’t help but think in stereotypes.

We segregate men from women, and no matter how many times we insist that men and women are equal, men and women should be treated the same, when it comes to the moment of excretion, even the most modern society – especially the most modern society – segregates two restrooms with little icons outside the doors, one wearing a dress, one wearing pants.

Objectivism is basically the same thing as faith-based science or for that matter faith-based foreign policy, where you start out with the assumption “We are good, they are evil,” or “We know what is good and right and we know what is wrong,” so all questions are settled in advance by a set of ideological prejudices.

Distinction between species and specimen is very much like the distinction between images and actual pictures, or, you know, objects that have a definite material identity. The classifications, the categories, the stereotypes, and the images are on one side, and the material pictures, statues, texts, and so forth are on the other.

I think it’s very important to distinguish between objectivity – which tends to be open, flexible, skeptical of its own certainty and open to new information – and objectivism – which thinks, “No, we know it all, we’ve got it, so real thinking and learning can come to an end.”