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By E. Patrick Johnson

Performance artist and student E. Patrick Johnson’s provocative research examines how blackness is appropriated and performed—toward extensively divergent ends—both inside of and outdoors African American tradition. Appropriating Blackness develops from the competition that blackness within the usa is unavoidably a politicized identity—avowed and disavowed, appealing and repellent, mounted and malleable. Drawing on functionality thought, queer stories, literary research, movie feedback, and ethnographic fieldwork, Johnson describes how assorted constituencies many times attempt to prescribe the limits of "authentic" blackness and the way functionality highlights the futility of such enterprises.

Johnson seems to be at a variety of websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic exercises through Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings through Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral background of his grandmother’s adventure as a family employee within the South, gospel song as played via a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality reviews school room. by way of exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to aside from sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the a number of significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his personal complicity, as ethnographer and instructor, in authenticating narratives of blackness.

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Extra resources for Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

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Hemphill’s explanation for black homophobia highlights the conflation of the often-violent feminization, emasculation, and trafficking of black male bodies with black male homosexuality. Thus the ‘‘final break in masculinity’’ assumes a former coherence, a stasis that never existed except as a social construct. Paradoxically, the fact that homosexuality is seen as the ‘‘final’’ break suggests that the direct line to an original template of black masculinity was cut in spite of rather than because of homosexual identification.

That you’ve got to constantly be up on the changes in the hip language, the hip black language, the hip black fashions, the hip black music. ’’ In addition to the popular black intellectuals featured in the film, Riggs interviews several average black Americans from both the inner city and the suburbs to get their perspective on being black. In one particularly telling moment in the film, three young black men who live in Inglewood, California—infamously known as South Central—provide compelling narratives of poverty, ‘‘gang banging,’’ drug dealing, and ever-impending incarceration.

On the basis of interviews with the choir’s members and with singers who attended the gospel music workshops I conducted, attendance at rehearsals and performances, and my own participation with the choirs, I interrogate the ways in which blackness is performed vis-à-vis gospel music. Given the racial, cultural, and religious composition of the Café and other Australian choirs, this chapter also addresses the politics of appropriation. ’’ Indeed, given their own history of colonization and the fact that many of them are the descendants of ‘‘convicts,’’ many Australians sing gospel as an expression of empathy with the social conditions of black Americans.

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