An interdisciplinary scholar and educator trained in Ethnic Studies, Digital and Media Studies, and American studies, Dr. Wendy Sung joined the faculty of UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in 2021. Her work sits at the intersection of comparative histories of racialization in the U.S., media and digital culture, and the dynamics of visuality and cultural memory. Her research and teaching are animated by two questions: how do media and digital technology instantiate new relationships of racialization, visuality, and knowledge? And conversely, how do racialized subjects innovate, concretize, or challenge paradigms of the technological? She asks these questions to not only reconstruct racial histories of digital technologies in the longue durée, but also to critically examine historical claims about the distinctiveness of modern digital practices and epistemologies. Informed by feminist and critical race studies, Sung has examined varied visual media such as street art, reality television, Twitter, and biometrics, to name a few.
Prior to joining the World Arts and Cultures/Dance faculty, Wendy was an assistant professor of Critical Media Studies at UT Dallas and a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in UC Riverside’s Media and Cultural Studies department. She received her Ph.D. from University of Michigan’s Department of American Culture.
Visual culture, Asian American studies, Black studies, digital culture, media studies, cultural memory, comparative histories of racialization within the U.S., television studies, transmedia histories and technologies, American popular culture, cultural studies, surveillance.
Creative Practice and Research
Wendy’s book project, Violent Virality: Racial Violence and the Making of New Media examines the relationship between race, technology, and media cultures through the phenomenon of watching racial violence in 20th and 21st century American culture. Bringing together digital humanities and media studies, critical ethnic studies, and cultural memory and reception studies, Sung’s project theorizes a new genealogy between spectacular anti-Black violence across new forms of media, and argues that racial violence is instrumentalized as a type of social and cultural beta-testing for new media’s value and “newness.” Through case studies that range from civil rights TV to Twitter, she illuminates how racial violence becomes a condition of possibility for emerging media technologies to utilize its images and social importance as a conduit for legitimation, reversing the dominant paradigm of technological relations between violent spectacle and media. Moreover, this project illuminates how this hidden relationship between racial violence and emerging media created new racial formations and produced unexpected modes of witnessing and memory that are integral to the concepts of freedom, technological advancement, and racial progress in the US.
Other current research includes the politics and history of biometrics and Asian American faciality, pandemic media attention economies, virality, and media witnessing.
Her most recent work, “In the Wake of Visual Failure: Twitter, Sandra Bland, and an Anticipatory Nonspectatorship,” appears in Social Text, and examines the failures of surveillance systems and the theorizations, refusals, and modes of imaginative witnessing of Black Twitter users in response to state-sanctioned violence and visual evidence.
Other publications appear in Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures and the edited anthologies, Global Asian American Popular Cultures and African Americans and Popular Culture.
She is the recipient of the Institute of Citizens and Scholars’ (formerly The Woodrow Wilson Foundation) One-Year Career Enhancement Fellowship and is currently on leave for AY 2021-2022.