MRes (full-time) - currently registered
Cultural Appropriation in Contemporary US Popular Culture
My thesis explores the power struggles occurring in white appropriation of Black cultures in contemporary popular culture, particularly the music industry which includes aspects such as public persona, media perceptions, style and language. Examining appropriation as one of the most historically prevalent forms of racial repression, alongside incarceration and public brutality, I show the damaging effects it can have on both individuals and wider communities. Moreover, I attempt to uncover whether this form of oppression is a conscious or unconscious process, and whether white appropriators are aware of the complex concepts of redistribution and recognition they themselves are involved in.
In this thesis I clearly establish the boundaries between appropriation and appreciation, as well as define different aspects of appropriation such as misappropriation, whitewashing and blackfacing. Additionally, I also contemplate the issues of oversensitivity and the right to offend in order to avoid over politicising which could lead to a re-heightened segregation of cultures and race as the marker of difference.
While I am currently researching contemporary appropriation (2000s onwards) I am interested in whether there are increased 'waves' of cultural appropriation that link to 'waves' of racial crisis. My current research establishes links between cultural politics and the contemporary tensions that have resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement, however I hope to expand this and explore connections between appropriation and other times of change or oppression such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the War on Drugs which commenced in the 1980s.
Twenty-first and twentieth century race and rights; twenty-first and twentieth century popular culture; media representations; 'American' identity; Black American identity.
Dr Nick Heffernan
Dr Anthony Hutchison
Primary Funding Source
School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies Studentship
Research Institutes, Centres and/or Research Clusters Memberships
Race and Rights Cluster at the University of Nottingham