Apr. 4, 2019 — Racquel Gates

Please join us on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at from 1:00-2:30pm in Foster 103 for the first meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Racquel Gates, Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Racquel will be presenting a work in-progress titled “Beyond the Sunken Place: The Limits of Representation in Black Film and Media Studies.”

There is no pre-circulated paper for this workshop.

**Please note the special time and location of this event.**

Lunch will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


“Beyond the Sunken Place: The Limits of Representation in Black Film and Media Studies”

To what extent does black representation in Hollywood exist in a state of perpetual emergency? Swinging between the two extremes of dearth of representation on the one hand, and politically regressive presence on the other, the history of the black image in film has been a simple story of conflict. From The Birth of a Nation to the whitewashing of black stories, these oppositional forces create a constant state of crisis around matters of black representation, leading to the celebration of “wins,” most often in the form of accolades, awards nominations, or even mere being. The problem with this scenario, I argue in this paper, is that this constant state of representational urgency obscures the more nuanced questions of how representation functions, what it means, and how it resonates. If we consider it a “win” for a black cast film to merely exist, where and when do scholars, critics, and fans get to ask questions about quality, taste, and emotional resonance? Or, to frame it differently, is there even space to contemplate these aspects of cinematic representation when the history of the black image has always been one of celebrating wins and trying to minimize losses?

Racquel Gates is an Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. Her research focuses on blackness and popular culture, with special attention to discourses of taste and quality. She is the author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture (Duke, 2018) and has written numerous essays on film and media, some of which appear in Film Quarterly, Television & New Media, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Mar. 8, 2019 — Meghanne Barker

Please join us on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 11:00am in Cobb 311 for the final meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Winter Quarter. We are delighted to have Meghanne Barker, Collegiate Assistant Professor in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Meghanne will be presenting the final chapter from her book manuscript entitled “Stepping Out of the Frame.” Responding to the chapter is Marissa Fenley, PhD Student in English and TAPS.

Meghanne’s chapter is available for download here.
Please do not circulate without permission.
Please email either Gary [gkafer@uchicago.edu] or Cooper [cooperlong@uchicago.edu] for the password.

This session will be co-sponsored by the Theater and Performance Studies Workshop.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Stepping Out of the Frame

This chapter follows two protagonists as they move out of the frame in which they have been placed, as they move from their second home, the site of their temporary displacement, back to their first home. The chapter moves between the story of Kashtanka, a dog who makes her debut at a circus and is discovered by her first masters, and of Marlin, a boy at Hope House, the temporary children’s home in Kazakhstan where I conducted my research. It follows Marlin on his last day as he makes his way home with his father. It looks not only at the plot of the play of Kashtanka itself, but also at the ways relationships were threatened, ruptured, and repaired among the artists working to put together this play at the Almaty Puppet Theater. The chapter examines the role of various kinds of frames – the frames of performance, of mediating technologies, and even physical frames for text objects – in enabling decontextualization and recontextualization, thus offering new perspectives and mitigating loss as people move out of particular frames and into new spaces.

Meghanne Barker is a Collegiate Assistant Professor in Social Sciences and a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. She is a linguistic anthropologist whose research examines intersections of play, performance, materiality, and childhood in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. Barker received her PhD in 2017 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is currently developing this research into two book projects. First, an ethnographic monograph, Animating Childhood in Almaty, shows the role of everyday enactments of ideal childhood, family, and home for preschool-aged children growing up in a temporary, state-run home. In her second book project, Puppets of the State, Barker expands her historical investigation of the vast network of Soviet-era, state-run puppet theaters and their contemporary legacy, examining puppets’ roles in socializing young citizens and in international campaigns of soft power through tours and festivals.