(Dis)orienting Laughter

  • Sarah Travis


In this chapter, Travis describes an account of a racialized experience in an elementary school art classroom. Using the concept of (dis)orientation as theorized by Sara Ahmed (Queer Phenomenology, 2006), Travis describes an experience teaching with the work of African American artist Faith Ringgold. In response to the reading by African American actress Ruby Dee of Ringgold’s children’s book, Tar Beach, a group of white students responded with (dis)orienting laughter. Travis describes the experience of this insidiously hostile laughter and considers the ways in which this embodied response functions as a microaggression that is both orienting and disorienting.


  1. Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Reading Rainbow. (1992, October 5). Tar beach [Television series episode].Google Scholar
  3. Ringgold, F. (1991). Tar beach. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.Google Scholar

Related Further Reading

  1. Applebaum, B. (2006). Race ignore-ance, colortalk, and white complicity: White is … white isn’t. Educational Theory, 56(3), 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brooks, J. G. (2011). Bearing the weight: Discomfort as a necessary condition for “less violent” and more equitable dialogic learning. Educational Foundations, 25(1/2), 43–62.Google Scholar
  3. Kraehe, A. M. (2015). Sounds of silence: Race and emergent counter-narratives of art teacher identity. Studies in Art Education, 56(3), 199–213.Google Scholar
  4. Mills, C. W. (2007). White ignorance. In S. Sullivan & N. Tuana (Eds.), Race and epistemologies of ignorance (pp. 11–28). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  5. Pollock, M. (2009). Colormute: Race talk dilemmas in an American school. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Travis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Art Education and Art HistoryCollege of Visual Arts and Design, University of North TexasDentonUSA

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