Featured Artist: Alexandra Nassif

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Alexandra Nassif

My name is Alexandra Nassif, and I am a social work student here at U-M. I aspire to a career in community-based policy advocacy, and have been working toward this goal as an MSW student focusing on community organizing and children, youth, and families. Before studying at U-M, I earned my BA in International Studies in my home state of Iowa, focusing on human rights and environmental issues.

I have a strong connection to creativity as self-care, and amateur photography is one creative outlet that I have enjoyed for many years. While my portfolio is largely focused on the natural world, my photo series that will be displayed in the Social Justice Art Festival explores the stark psycho-social dichotomy my classmates and I witnessed while visiting the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Questions about violence and vulnerability abound when we talk about immigration in general, and the physical US-Mexico border specifically: Who is vulnerable? Who feels vulnerable, and why? Who is perceived to be violent? Who is actually violent? Who is allowed to be violent, and why?

The context of these questions is multifaceted. Racism, xenophobia, the military- and prison-industrial complexes, and the politics of fear interact with economic policies rooted in a history of colonialism to create the incredibly complicated and often inhumane structure of current US immigration and border enforcement policy. And unfortunately, these questions arise not only when we discuss immigration and the border, but also when we tackle police brutality, gender violence, foreign policy, and other pervasive social and political issues.

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The psychological, social, and cultural dynamics of power along the border are impossible to ignore, or even to completely comprehend when they are not part of our personal stories, and I hope to offer only a glimpse of these dynamics in my display piece. I believe it is important to remember that “there is no neutral gaze in photography.”* I also believe that audiovisual technology can be a powerful tool for bearing witness to injustice and inequity, and bearing witness is one thing we can do in the present when we are faced with systemic issues we cannot change overnight. I appreciate this opportunity to share what I have witnessed, and hope my photos will be a tool to help us reflect on   the fallacies and imbalances of violence and vulnerability in our society.

To view more examples of my work, I invite you to visit my photo blog, Photo Spock.

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Work cited:

* Trudy (2014, August 9). There is no “neutral gaze” in photography [Web log post]. Retrieved

from http://www.driftsojourn.com/post/94268418210/no-neutral-gaze-in-photography

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