About the class

Introduction and Goals:

What is Blackness? What is too Black? Who is not Black enough? How do performances and representations of Blackness in popular culture shape ideas of Blackness in the United States? How does power and privilege affect the performances and representations of Blackness we encounter? How do issues of race and culture complicate the staging of gender politics? In this course we will watch and read various performances in an effort to understand how Blackness, specifically in relation to gender and sexuality is represented in U.S. popular culture. This course juxtaposes theoretical readings, films, television shows, musical performances, plays, etc. that address portrayals of masculinity/femininity, gendered hierarchies and/or queer identity through a Black subject position.

The course will aim to deconstruct stereotypes of “Blackness” in the U.S and African diaspora. We will examine how Black people are portrayed and represented in history, literature and popular culture and challenge the notion of essential or authentic Blackness. In what ways are monolithic understandings of Blackness both challenged and reinforced in popular culture? What does it mean for Black performance to take place in/by non-Black bodies? How does ethnicity influence performances of Blackness? How do performances of “Blackness” affect public policy and the public’s perception of Black people? In what ways does compulsory heterosexuality affect performances of Black masculinity and femininity? In what ways can Blackness be an aesthetic? How is Blackness inherently queer? Throughout the course we will focus on current performance and identity theories and explore race, gender and sexuality as constructed categories. Students will be invited to look critically at a variety of performances to think in new ways about gender, sexuality and identity in the performance of Blackness. Students will chronicle their experience in the class through weekly critical and/or creative blog posts.


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