The Presence of Absence

It’s an odd turn of phrase, for one to say that they can sense that something is missing. They cannot, after all, see, smell, taste, hear, or touch an absence. In this issue, two authors work to sense, articulate, and address a missing presence. In “Missing Women,” Bridget Riley explores how she uses a podcast assignment to tackle the gender imbalance in middle school social studies textbooks. Brian Piper considers how an unnamed Black man used the visual and tactile nature of a daguerreotype to assert his presence when “so much of America’s visual culture distorted or denied his existence.” Recognizing the presence of these absences requires the question: what are the other missing pieces in history?

Image: Felix Moissenet, Portrait of a Man, ca. 1852. Daguerreotype, 3¼ × 2¾ inches. New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Maya and James Brace Fund, 2013.22. Available to view by appointment.

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Perspectives on History January 2022 Cover. Gold cover with a black and white Daguerreotype. The Daguerreotype is of a black and white image is of a black man in 1800s clothing, a white collared shirt, plaid vest and bowtie, and a black coat. The image sits in a gold and brown frame.


Leland Renato Grigoli, editor
Laura Ansley, managing editor
Alana Venable, research and publications assistant
Alexandra F. Levy, digital communications coordinator
Liz Townsend, manager, data administration and integrity