Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender by Janell Hobson

By Janell Hobson

Analyzes how race and gender intersect within the rhetoric and imagery of pop culture within the early twenty-first century.

In Body as Evidence, Janell Hobson demanding situations postmodernist dismissals of id politics and the delusional trust that the Millennial period displays a “postracial” and “postfeminist” global. Hobson issues to varied examples in cultural narratives, which recommend that new media depend on outdated ideologies within the shaping of the physique politic.

Body as Evidence creates a theoretical mash-up of prose and poetry to light up the ways in which our bodies nonetheless topic as websites of political, cultural, and electronic resistance. It does so by way of interpreting numerous representations, from well known indicates like American Idol to public figures just like the Obamas to high-profile instances just like the Duke lacrosse rape scandal to present developments in electronic tradition. Hobson’s learn additionally discusses the ladies who've fueled and retooled twenty-first-century media to make experience of antiracist and feminist resistance. Her discussions contain the electronica of Janelle Monáe, M.I.A., and Björk; the feminist movie odysseys of Wanuri Kahiu and Neloufer Pazira; and the embodied resistance came across easily in elevating one’s voice in music, making a web publication, donning a veil, stripping bare, or planting a tree. Spinning wisdom out of this data overload, Hobson deals a world black feminist meditation on how bodies mobilize, destabilize, and decolonize the meanings of race and gender in an more and more digitized and globalized world.

“By racializing the research of expertise, Janell Hobson brings to the vanguard a few extremely important concerns concerning the electronic divide. there's a tendency in a few components of academia to wholeheartedly have fun new applied sciences with out giving sufficient notion to how type, gender, race, and geographical divisions impact either the construction and intake ends of the chain.” — Gail Dines, coeditor of Gender, Race, and sophistication in Media: A serious Reader, 3rd version

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In contrast, Tamyra Gray had to compete with more established black female vocalists, including Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Beyoncé, and has had more success on Broadway—curiously, a musical path that American Idol’s most infamous judge Simon Cowell has derisively dismissed as a legitimate music career. As an aside, Simon Cowell represents a different sort of vocality—he is the speaking, as opposed to singing, voice of authority, whose British accent recalls an imperialist English “father” tongue, which is why, when he passes judgment—in comparison to the other judges (Randy Jackson, an African American musician, and Paula Abdul, a woman of color pop star and then regular judge since the inaugural season)—Cowell’s acidic, brutally honest comments hold more weight.

That Armstrong could improvise upon and appropriate this specifically gendered protest, which is then elevated to a national lament on black people’s suffering en masse under white supremacy, complicates theories of cross‑dressing and gender‑bending performances; the black male performer becomes the feminine, vulnerable speaker powerless in a world where whites can “overlook” and “pass” him over in a racist society. Ironically, the “protest” of the original black woman’s performance of “Black and Blue” becomes “invisible” through preoccupations with black men’s experiences of racism, from Louis Armstrong’s rendition to Ellison’s signifying text in Invisible Man.

Because black women’s singing is thus a critical site of struggle between objectification and agency, it also becomes a site of resistance, which is embedded in the “space for critique and protest” that Griffin describes. North American black music is itself a tradition of “protest”: keeping alive a memory of African culture during slavery, when the essence of African music—the percussion sound—was banned by enslavers. The percussion eventually became embodied through foot stomping, handclapping, and vocal improvisation, while spirituals coded the pain of the slave experience and the slaves’ desire for and actual attempts at freedom.

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