Ann duCille, professor of English, emerita, will deliver the third annual Richard Slotkin Lecture in American Studies titled “TV and the ‘Thug Default’: Why Racial Representation Still Matters.” Her talk is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m., Oct. 26 in the Powell Theater.
“TV and the “Thug Default”: Why Racial Representation Still Matters” revisits such constructs as the “superpredator” and such cases as the “Central Park Five” in tracing the meaning, use and blackening of the term “thug.” Arguing that image is ideology—that what we see on the TV screen colors how we see black boys on the street—the talk tracks the rise of law-and-order programming that figures the black male as a dark menace to society. It demonstrates how televisual image making in compulsively stigmatizing the colored Other functions as a deadly form of racial profiling. The final section of the paper revisits the blame-a-brother racial ruses of Charles Stuart and Susan Smith as closing examples of how the racial logic of black guilt continues to influence both popular culture and public policy and also uses a riff on the Broadway musical Hamilton and the TV drama This Is Us to suggest ways of doing difference differently.
Ann duCille was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan from 1999-2005 and has chaired both the African American Studies Program and the English Department and also directed the Center for African American Studies. She has been visiting faculty at Brown University since 2015 and was the Pembroke Center Distinguished Professor in Residence for 2016-17. This year she joins the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) as Visiting Professor of Race and Ethnicity. A former Guggenheim Fellow, she is the author of The Coupling Convention: Sex, Text, and Tradition in Black Women’s Fiction and Skin Trade (which won the Gustavus Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in 1997), as well as numerous articles, essays, and book chapters in the fields of American and African American literature, feminist theory, and popular culture. Her new book, Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV, from which her talk is drawn, is forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2018.
Lecture namesake Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, emeritus, will introduce Ann duCille.