Date of Degree

6-2-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Vincent Crapanzano

Committee Members

Jane Schneider

Juan Battle

Orin Starn, External Reader

Keywords

Tyler Perry, Media, Spiritual Capital, African American Humor, Race & Gender, Consumer Behavior

Abstract

This dissertation examines what Black women’s aesthetic consumption practices reveal about the lived experiences, navigation strategies, and resistance techniques of Black women.

By introducing and developing a Black Women’s Theatre Aesthetic, this work is centered around the lived realities of the critical Black female spectator. It examines Black women’s demands for self-definition, and their resistance to demeaning ideology and oppressive structures. Expanding beyond Black feminist aesthetics examination of the texts and dramas created by Black women, this work gives primacy to the Black women in the seats- the audience. It engages with the Black female theatergoer as she engages across, between and within her social, political, economic, and spiritual spheres.

Utilizing yo-yo fieldwork, participant observations, focus groups and interviews while following the 2010 national tour of Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, this dissertation investigates the meaning and significance of Black women’s theatergoing practices. Engaging with, and building upon, Black feminist aesthetics, womanist theology, and Black feminist anthropology, it argues that Black women’s aesthetic consumption reclaims a rich tradition of Black women speaking to their political and cultural positionality. It makes the case that Black women’s cultural consumption opens a window to identity reconstruction processes.

I conclude that critical Black female spectators, drawing upon their desire for alternative media and cultural imagery; peace in the midst of difficult circumstances; and nostalgic yearnings for community; create, within a theatrical setting, a symbiotic creative partnership that opens portals for resistance and transformation.

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