Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of by E. Patrick Johnson

By E. Patrick Johnson

Performance artist and student E. Patrick Johnson’s provocative research examines how blackness is appropriated and performed—toward greatly divergent ends—both inside of and out of doors African American tradition. Appropriating Blackness develops from the rivalry that blackness within the usa is inevitably a politicized identity—avowed and disavowed, appealing and repellent, mounted and malleable. Drawing on functionality conception, queer experiences, literary research, movie feedback, and ethnographic fieldwork, Johnson describes how varied constituencies again and again try and prescribe the limits of "authentic" blackness and the way functionality highlights the futility of such enterprises.

Johnson seems at a variety of websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic workouts via Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings by way of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral background of his grandmother’s adventure as a household employee within the South, gospel tune as played via a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality stories lecture room. by way of exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to except for sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the a number of significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his personal complicity, as ethnographer and instructor, in authenticating narratives of blackness.

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Extra info for Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

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Rather than silencing rhetoric such as that enlisted in Ice Cube’s song, Riggs’s choice to include it and to juxtapose it with narratives by 30 The Pot Is Brewing those whom the song indicts only reinforces the notion that blackness cannot be founded on class status. If anything, the cacophony of voices featured in this section of the film resembles the polyvocality of discourses that comprise blackness. 29 It’s a Dick Thang, You Wouldn’t Understand: Blackness and Gender In addition to issues of class and color, Riggs unhinges the link between hegemonic masculinity and authentic blackness.

Not as a philosophic doctrine that there are no rational grounds for legitimate standards or authority; it is far more, the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness. ’’ Indeed, they do not experience a joy that ‘‘runs, bang! into ecstasy’’ but rather into despair. The testimonies of these young men featured in the film are in contradistinction to the romanticized folk culture depicted by those who unproblematically image the black working class and inner-city dwellers as somehow inoculated from the devastation of their surroundings, reconstructing the weary, worn propaganda that misery breeds creativity.

Indeed, over the years various black scholars, writers, and activists have located authentic blackness within poor and working-class black communities, suggesting, according to Valerie Smith, that the black working class ‘‘is an autonomous space, free of 22 The Pot Is Brewing negotiations with hegemony, that contains the pure source of musical and spiritual culture and inspiration. ’’ 14 Much of this sentiment stems from the belief that black economic mobility necessarily breeds assimilationists and race traitors because of interracial mixing.

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