Representations of blackface and minstrelsy in twenty-first century popular culture

Harbord, JN 2015, Representations of blackface and minstrelsy in twenty-first century popular culture , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Blackface minstrelsy just ain’t what it used to be. This statement should not be understood as a call for the return of the minstrel show. Quite literally, minstrelsy and its central feature blackface manifest themselves in divergent ways from their nineteenth and twentieth century manifestations, convey a range of meanings, and serve a number of social and artistic functions in the twenty-first century. Through the analysis of a variety of texts and practices from across cultural fields including music, television, film, journalism, social media, and academic discourses of minstrelsy this thesis identifies how blackface and minstrelsy are manifested, their function in critical, artistic, and social contexts, and the effects of their appearance in popular culture. To achieve this, discussion utilises the analytical methodologies of semiotics and discourse analysis to identify the themes and tropes and consistencies and inconsistencies that form the image and concept of blackface minstrelsy in the twenty-first century. Initial conclusions point to a number of contrasting functions and effects: the notion of equivalency with cultural and industrial practices; use as a discursive and iconographic signifier of racism, exploitation, and marginalisation in cultural criticism; application in comedic, dramatic, and artistic contexts as a tool of satire, parody, and irony; and public displays of blackface, seemingly ignorant of its problematic signification. In conclusion, the thesis locates its findings within wider discourses of race, appropriation, and marginalisation in American society. Moreover, this is positioned in the light of recent tensions between African American communities and the police, the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and the proposal of post-racialism following the election of Barack Obama as United States President in 2008.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Funders: Self-funded
Depositing User: JN Harbord
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2016 11:19
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2021 13:33

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