Cite as: Discussion of the lecture Leigh Raiford, When Home is a Photograph: Kathleen Cleaver’s Albums of Exile, ICI Berlin, 27 March 2024, video recording, mp4, 42:29 <>
27 Mar 2024


Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:42:29
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Lecture

When Home is a Photograph: Kathleen Cleaver's Albums of Exile / Leigh Raiford

This talk examines how former Black Panther Party Communications Secretary Kathleen Neal Cleaver has used photography to make ‘home’ in the world. Through close examination of a family photography album made by Cleaver of her family’s time living in exile in Algeria and France, 1969–1972, and drawing on Raiford’s three years of working with Cleaver leading a team organizing and cataloguing her vast personal photography archive (since acquired by Emory University in Spring 2020), Raiford considers the everyday image making practices that a public figure committed to improving the conditions of Black lives globally has engaged to imagine, identify, create, fabulate, inhabit, leave, and, sometimes, destroy ‘home’. While Cleaver’s photography collection broadly, and the family album specifically, have great political and historical significance, enriching our knowledge about the Black Panther Party, the work of Black internationalism in the era of Black Power, and gender politics in the context of Black revolutionary struggles, it is perhaps best understood as a family archive. Thus, Raiford reads the Algiers album as a Black-woman authored text, a model that offers an affective and personal history of a movement that has been conveyed primarily as historical document. Its form as a family album forces us to reckon with the messiness of movement and cannot deny the failures and disappointments of family relations — whether a difficult marriage, a growing community of exiles, family as a metaphor for nationalism or as a map of intergenerational kinship ties — as well as the possibilities and limitations of photography itself.

Leigh Raiford is Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches, researches, curates and writes about race, gender, justice and visuality. At Berkeley, Raiford is also Co-Director with Tianna S. Paschel of the Black Studies Collaboratory, a three year initiative to amplify the world-building work of Black Studies funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Raiford is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle and, with Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, and Laura Wexler of Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography, forthcoming from Thames and Hudson. Raiford is the Spring 2024 Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.


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