School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Image of Sarah Menzel

Sarah Menzel

Research Student, Faculty of Arts


Research Summary

Current Status

MRes (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

Cultural Appropriation in Contemporary US Popular Culture

Research Summary

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.

Research Interests

Twenty-first and twentieth century race and rights; twenty-first and twentieth century popular culture; media representations; 'American' identity; Black American identity.

Research Supervisors

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

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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