CSC: Student Organizing Committee (SOC) Presentations Panel

Thursday, May 2, 2019 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Johnson Center, Assembly Room F

Please come and join us for the special colloquium event, organized by Cultural Studies Student Organizing Committee (SOC). CS students will present their papers and share their research with the GMU community. Mark your calendars and don't miss the chance to learn more about CS students' research projects. 

Please see the program of the panel below.

Fat, Black and Ugly: The Politics of Mammy Drag in the 21st Century

By Ayondela McDole

<amcdole@gmu.edu>

In this paper, I examine the evolution of the mammy stereotype in American popular culture from the nineteenth into the twenty-first century. Mammy has always been used to manipulate audiences, but Nancy Green’s performance of Aunt Jemima at the World’s Fair in 1893 is a quintessential moment for mammy: not only was Aunt Jemima created to sell a commodity (pancake mix), the stereotype was more significantly used to reassure white audiences that freed Africans would remain loyal to white interests. I glance at mammy’s origins in minstrel shows performed in drag two hundred years earlier and analyze the figure’s return in the twenty-first century through the textual analysis of films Big Momma’s House 1 & 2, Madea’s Big Happy Family, Madea’s Family Reunion, Madea Goes To Jail and Norbit. By deconstructing the protagonists in these films performed by comedians Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry, I uncover the injurious legacy of the mammy stereotype through a black feminist and Pan African lens.

By using theorists Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, and Judith Butler, I arrive at the conclusion that mammy drag turns out to be a hegemonic tool birthed from a stereotype created in white supremacy to co-opt, manipulate, and bastardize black motherhood. While drag is widely understood to challenge gender norms through performance, in this case racist ideology is not only carried forward into the twenty-first century, it is essentialized into an idea of black motherhood that is dehistoricized from slavery discourse. Ironically, then, “mammy drag,” as I have named it, serves as a hegemonic tool of white supremacy that is highly revered among black audiences. Mammy drag today is used to reassure black audiences that the essential notions of blackness are reaffirmed in a postmodern era focused on challenging metanarratives.

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Members-Only: Postmodern Nationalism and the Politics of Inclusion in the Indian State

Pavithra Suresh

<psuresh@gmu.edu>

In this paper, it is my goal to determine who is perceived as a normative member of the Indian state. This is not to make claims about the literal citizenship of any individual or group, but rather to interrogate the larger institution of Hindu nationalism and to trace how it is used to idealize certain groups and exclude others. My object of study is the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card, an immigration status that extends to members of the Indian diaspora and encompasses the Person of Indian Origins (PIC) statuses. Though the OCI card essentially functions as a long-term visa, the implications and symbolism of OCI status are worth exploring, as evidenced by the sheer size of the Indian diaspora and by the Indian state’s conspicuous relationship with many of its members. The Indian state continues its public linkages with certain imagined community members abroad. It does not recognize ties to certain other members of the Indian diaspora: among them, lower caste and non-Hindu migrants. It is thus worth considering the ways in which these public linkages further reproduce an idealized, commercially-successful, and Hindu vision of India.

To explore this topic, I interrogate the language of the Overseas Citizenship of India status to make sense of how the Indian state maintains linkages with certain members of the diaspora while abandoning other members of the Indian state and diaspora. Then, I consider how nationalism often blurs citizenship with consumerism within the postmodern moment.  Finally, I apply postmodern theories of identity to Indian nationalism and explore who has been historically excluded from Indian nationalism to understand the larger implications of OCI status.

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The Jordan Peterson Tesseract: Pseudo-Intellectual Astrology in the Social Media Age

David Zeglen

<dzeglen@gmu.edu>

In a 2018 op-ed in the New York Times, David Brooks lauded Jordan Peterson, a formerly obscure professor of psychology, as the “most influential public intellectual in the Western world.” Peterson has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity over the past several years due to his public inveighing on various media platforms against what he sees as an epidemic of political correctness, cultural Marxism, and identity politics. In response to this alleged crisis, Peterson offers his growing base of followers a worldview linking evolutionary psychology with fixed mythic archetypes to help free young men from the stifling social mores of contemporary PC culture.

While Peterson’s discourse is composed of crypto-fascist pieties that encourage his followers to paradoxically free themselves by submitting to an authoritarian hierarchy rooted in “nature” akin to astrological discourse as analyzed by Adorno, it is less clear how Peterson modulates his mode of address in the media in order to reproduce his status as a public intellectual and disseminate his message. By analyzing his Twitter tweets, YouTube video lectures, and television appearances, this paper argues that Peterson’s mode of address in the media involves three interrelated emotive personae specific to a given media platform: the father expert who rages on Twitter, the serious skeptic who questions in broadcast media, and the adjusted individual who cries on YouTube. Via these personae, Peterson embodies a range of emotional states that work to enhance the authenticity of his mythic ‘truths’ of society while simultaneously trading on his authority as an academic. Peterson’s three personae also repeatedly self-reference one another by encouraging fans to view him on all media platforms in order to grasp the totality of his message. However, when taken together, Peterson’s personae forms a discursive tesseract - a constantly moving structure that makes it impossible to discern the outside from the inside – which both gives his message the impression of an esoteric knowledge in need of revelation while also occluding the real social relations responsible for the present socio-economic crisis.