Boys, Boyz, Boies: The ethics of black masculinity in film and popular media
Boys, Boyz, Boies: The Ethics of Black Masculinity in Film and Popular Media concerns questions of ethics, gender and race in popular American images, national discourse, and cultural productions by and about black men. The dissertation proposes an ethics of masculinity, as ethics refers to a system of morality and valuation and as ethics refers to a care of the self and ethical subject formation. The texts of analysis include recent films by black/African-American filmmakers, gangsta rap and hip-hop and black star persona: texts ranging from Blaxploitation and New Black Cinema to contemporary music video to autobiography and the public image of Sidney Poitier. The methodological approach is interdisciplinary. Kantian ethics and the category of the person and Charles Mills' critique of Kantian ethics and the category of the sub-person provide the philosophical groundwork for understanding ethical questions as questions of subject formation and racialization. Ethics is informed by the existential phenomenology of Sartre in an effort to raise greater, more comprehensive questions of race and gender. Finally, Foucault's care of the self and its relationship to ethical subject formation provides the groundwork for understanding cultural production as cultural critique, as this relates to the production of African-American artists and black themed texts. This philosophical rubric is further augmented by literary theory, film theory and history, and media and communication theory. Feminist and queer theory, African-American and gender studies, and aesthetic and performance theory inform the analysis of texts and the notion of racial performativity which I elaborate as a method of understanding gender and race in discursive subject formations. Therefore, the project of this dissertation is an interrogation of masculinity and masculinities as they negotiate and contend in public discourse and popular media. By positing public figures as critics in critical praxis and emphasizing notions of gender and race within performativity, the project becomes an evaluation of the efficacy of a given gender and racial performative figure within ethics and the conduct and care of the self.
0325: African Americans
0323: American studies