Blackness in Postmodernity: Race and Representation


Postmodernity according to Hall

It is ambiguous depending on where you are in the world; the meanings change, but in terms of pop culture, there is ³always an ambivalent relationship to European high culture.´ (This would include the art and literature of the so called ³dead white men.´) This means that meanings are ³historically contingent.´ A global phenomenon that has ³shifted the terrain of culture toward the popular´ or culturally dominant which tends to ³decenter or displace´ grand narratives and old hierarchies.



Difference is fetishized. Multiculturalism«.. y Example: Cosmo in developing countries««.Vogue India -Is this similar to Collins¶ and Anderson¶s idea of colorblindedness? Matched by backlash, ³the aggressive resistance to difference . . .´ ‡ Example: Obama as ³race´ and Clinton as ³gender´ candidates. What is McCain then? (Why isn¶t he the ³age´ candidate? Why isn¶t Palin¶s gender a big deal?)


In Vogue India magazine, a child from a poor family modeled a Fendi bib, which costs about $100.

A man modeled a Burberry umbrella in Vogue that costs about $200.
Marketers need to ³create brand awareness´ in India, said Claudia D¶Arpizio, a partner with the consulting firm Bain & Company, who is based in Milan.

y Common definition: Ideology can refer to a systematic body of ideas

articulated by a particular group of people¶ ± e.g., the ideology of the Republican Party or the Catholic Church

y Anderson and Collins¶ definition of ideology: beliefs that form

the structure of social relations making certain behaviors appear ³normal´ and ³acceptable.´ Ideological beliefs often cloud our awareness of how social relations are structured to privilege few, while oppressing many 

Examples: welfare queen versus overcommitted professional mom; Obama¶s terrorist fist jab

y Stuart Hall¶s definition of ideology: µthe mental frameworks²the

languages, the concepts, the categories, imagery of thought, and the systems of representations²which different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of, define, figure out, and render intelligible the way society works¶

Representation is???

Questions to Ask Yourself about Representation
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡

What is being represented? How is it represented? Using what codes? How is the representation made to seem 'true', 'commonsense' or 'natural'? What is foregrounded and what is backgrounded? Are there any notable absences? Whose representation is it? Whose interests does it reflect? How do you know?


y At whom is this representation targeted? How do you know? y What does the representation mean to you? What does the representation

mean to others? How do you account for the differences?
y How do people make sense of it? According to what codes? y With what alternative representations could it be compared? How does it


‡What is being represented? ‡How is it represented? Using what codes? ‡How is the representation made to seem 'true', 'commonsense' or 'natural'? ‡What is foregrounded and what is backgrounded? WHY?

Common Stereotypes
(based on the work of Donald Bogle)

Black Men

Black Women

y The Tom y The Coon y The Brutal Black Man

y The Tragic Mulatto y The Mammy y Sapphire y Jezebel

Now in other forms««.

y Diva y Evil Bitches y Bitter Black Women

y Concept derived by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) y Describes the way dominant classes (genders, nations, etc.) maintain

their power ± not by (just through) brute force but by achieving legitimacy, winning ³consent,´ and making their rule appear commonsense or simply ³the way things are´

y Hegemony is maintained (and must be continually maintained: it is

an ongoing process) by dominant groups and classes µnegotiating¶ with, and making concessions to, subordinate groups and classes¶ ± hegemony doesn¶t imply oppression (although oppression might be present); it depends upon negotiation, stability, consensus hegemony is secured or contested

y Popular culture comes to be viewed as the terrain upon which

y Constant battle between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces

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