Date of Award

Fall 12-7-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Alessandra Raengo

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Barker

Third Advisor

Dr. Eddie Chambers

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Angelo Restivo

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Greg Smith

Abstract

In recent years, film, art, new media, and music video works created by black makers have demonstrated an increasingly “post-black” impulse. The term “post-black” was originally coined in response to innovative practices and works created by a generation of black artists who were shaped by hip-hop culture and Afro-modernist thinking. I use the term as a theoretical tool to discuss what lies beyond the racial character of a work, image, or body. Using a post-black theoretical methodology I examine a range of works by black filmmakers Kathleen Collins Prettyman and Lee Daniels, visual artists Wangechi Mutu and Jean-Michel Basquiat, new media artist Nettrice Gaskins, and music video works of hip-hop artists and performer Erykah Badu.

I discuss how black artists and filmmakers have moved through Darby English’s notion of “black representational space” as a sphere where bodies and works are beholden to specific historical and aesthetic expectations and limitations. I posit that black representational space has been challenged by what I describe as “metaphysical space” where bodies produce a new set of possibilities as procreative, fluid, liberated, and otherworldly forces. These bodies are neither positive nor negative; instead they occupy the in-between spaces between life and death, time and space, digital and analog, interiority and exteriority, vulnerability and empowerment. Post-black visual culture displays the capacities of black bodies as creative forces that shape how we see and experience visual culture.

My methodology employs textual analysis of visual objects that articulate a post-black impulse, paying close attention to how these works compel viewers to see other dimensions of experience. In three chapters I draw from theoretical work in race and visuality, affect theory, phenomenology, and interiority from the likes of Charles Johnson, Frantz Fanon, Elena del Río, Sara Ahmed, Saidiya Hartman, and Elizabeth Alexander. This study aims to create an interdisciplinary analysis that charts new directions for exploring and re-imaging black bodies as subjects and objects of endless knowledge and creative potential.

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