The Scherer Center hosted Professor Racquel Gates, Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, who presented her talk Double Negative: Race, Popular Culture, and the Politics of “Quality”.
Professor Gate’s talk examined the idea of a “negative” racial representation. Rather than fall back on oft-cited claims that these types of images are damaging to black progress, Gates talk argued that these representations—found in popular film and television—have been chronically overlooked and woefully underestimated. Just as a photonegative is necessary for the production of a photograph, Gates’ began with the assertion that “negative” representations of African Americans are inextricably linked to the “positive” images that typically receive critical and scholarly attention, and that the one cannot exist without the other. These images eschew respectability politics in favor of emotionally affective, sometimes excessive, contemplations of life, love, and the daily experiences of blackness.
Combining close textual readings with theoretical analysis, this talk celebrated those types of black images located in the figurative “gutter” of taste politics, and calls for a new approach to the study of black popular culture. Some of the examples that I explore include figures like Flavor Flav and Katt Williams, films like Coming to America, Strictly Business, and Boomerang, and television shows like Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, and Empire, among others.
This talk was presented in cooperation with The Department of Cinema and Media Studies and The Film Studies Center.