Ann duCille, professor of English, emerita, delivered the third annual Richard Slotkin Lecture in American Studies on “TV and the ‘Thug Default’: Why Racial Representation Still Matters” Oct. 26 in the Powell Family Cinema. Her new book, Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV, from which her talk was drawn, is forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2018. 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.
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, chair and professor of American studies, professor of anthropology, anthropology, welcomed the audience to the lecture.
In her lecture and book, duCille 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.
Lecture namesake Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, emeritus, introduced Ann duCille and spoke briefly about the history of the American Studies Department, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018. Slotkin founded the American Studies Department and helped establish the Film Studies Department, and was the first professor to win Wesleyan’s Binswanger Teaching Award twice.
The lecture, which was attended by more than 120 faculty and students, was sponsored by the American Studies Department and co-sponsored by the Center for the Americas and the African American Studies Program. (Photos by Olivia Drake)