Congratulations to Katie Bausch for the successful defense of her dissertation!
Title: He Thinks He’s Down: White Appropriations of Black Masculinities in the Civil Rights Era, 1945-1979.
Abstract: “He Thinks He’s Down” examines the ways in which a significant and influential collection of white artists and activists in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, seeking an alternative to hegemonic white middle-class masculinity, appropriated imaginary black masculinities into their lives and work. The dissertation demonstrates that during the civil rights era images of black men circulated widely in U.S. popular culture, in part because of the acceleration of the black freedom struggle. Media depictions of black men engaging in struggles for civil rights, integration, self-determination, and the end of white supremacy highlighted their rebelliousness, strength, freedom, and power. In this same moment, many white middle-class men felt anxious, disempowered, insecure, and disillusioned with norms of middle-class manhood, especially in the context of a growing white-collar economy, the nuclear arms race, suburbanization, and political corruption. These emotions were expressed in various popular culture forums, including literature, political movements, magazines and films.
“He Thinks He’s Down” argues that one strategy adopted by white artists and activists to reinvigorate white middle-class masculinity was the appropriation of imaginary characteristics of black masculinity circulating in media, including rebelliousness, strength, freedom, and power. The four case studies examined here—Beat writers, Students for a Democratic Society activists, Playboy fashion editors, and Blaxploitation film directors—show that the artistic and political appropriations over the course of the period changed as the images of black men in the media varied, but that they nevertheless had similar consequences. Though often celebrating the strength of black masculinity, they ultimately reduced black manhood to a series of consumable images, perpetuated many racist stereotypes, silenced the role of black women and black femininities, and reinforced the structurally-based privileges that were denied to black men to either accept or reject hegemonic masculinity.
Marc Stein (supervisor)
Victoria Wolcott (external)
Gamal Abdel-Shehid (internal/external)
Anne Rubenstein (Dean’s rep/chair)
Katie, good luck and many thanks for years of great involvement and contribution!
From all of us : )