"COLORED PEOPLE'S TIME": PRAXIS AND TEMPORALITY IN THE STAND-UP PERFORMANCES OF RICHARD PRYOR AND JACKIE "MOMS" MABLEY
Year of Dissertation:
Oppression can be interpreted as a process through which specific groups are created and subordinated for the purpose of mediating, and in so alleviating, the alienation of privileged groups. As oppression operates on many levels--e.g. the social, the economic, the psychological, the bodily, and in the academy--it leads to the development of a number of issues. Oppression can be conceptualized in terms of temporality. Those who are oppressed are atemporal: this atemporality is phenomenological in that oppressed groups feel as though they are socially and psychologically fixed. The oppressed internalize and reiterate their own oppression, oppression that the academy also perpetuates. While these dynamics call traditional methods of inquiry into question, comedic discourse bypasses these problems. Group laughter--based in relief, incongruity, or superiority--reflects a collective consciousness. More importantly, as a group these various types of laughter are indicative of psyches beholden to and free of the ideological constraints of oppression. Audio recordings of the stand-up performances of two of the U.S.'s most gifted and influential stand-up comedians--Richard Pryor and Jackie "Moms" Mabley--constitute rich cultural artifacts reflective of popular attitudes about black oppression and freedom.
Re-enchanting the World: Religion, Secularism and the Crisis of Modernity
Year of Dissertation:
My dissertation, Re-enchanting the World: Religion, Desire and the Crisis of Modernity, combines theoretical, historical, ethnographic and cultural analysis with memoir to examine the ways in which "renewalist" religious movements with charismatic practices reflect both a sense of disenchantment with modernity as well as a desire to "re-enchant" it in a technological, postmodern era. Long assumed to decline with the onset of modernity, the unexpected "revival" of religion reflects the rationalization, commodification and authoritarian tendencies of the larger society, calling into question Harvey Cox (1995) and others analysis of it as an upsurge of "authentic, primordial" spirituality. Focusing on the Pentecostal-influenced Catholic charismatic movement, with which my family was affiliated, it utilizes a feminist, queer and critical theory perspective to attain a "social physiognomy" of American society through an "immanent critique" (Adorno 1983; Cho 2002) of charismatic and apocalyptic literature, practices and culture to discern its "negative utopian" desire for a better world, here or beyond. Social physiognomy seeks "contradictions within the cultural object that express and contest the contradiction of the social totality" through the method of "immanent critique" - which seeks to both decipher the "secret code" according to which an object expresses and reproduces social domination - while at the same time recognizing the object's "enigmatic" and utopian denunciations of injustice (Adorno 1983; Apostolidis 2000). In a time of particular crisis in the Catholic Church, it tries to make use of immanent critique to understand the troubled conjunctions of sexuality, gender, politics and religion in the contemporary moment, and what they reflect about the larger social totality. It also examines the unexpected revival of religion in relation to the crisis of modernity's "dialectic of enlightenment" - where the overcoming of superstition and myth by science and technology results paradoxically in a dominating bureaucratic and technological rationality that renewalist religions reflect, even as they may seek to resist it.