Everybody Is a Star!: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s U.S. Popular Culture

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Everybody Is a Star!: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s U.S. Popular Culture

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Title: Everybody Is a Star!: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s U.S. Popular Culture
Author: Poulson-Bryant, Scott
Citation: Poulson-Bryant, Scott. 2016. Everybody Is a Star!: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s U.S. Popular Culture. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: “Everybody is a Star: Uplift, Citizenship and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s U.S. Popular Culture,” examines the ways in which popular culture in the mid-1970s operated as a site of citizenship formation for marginalized subjects, particularly African Americans, in the decade after the Civil Rights advances of the 1960s.

Historically, the cultural production of black people in the United States has occupied a curious position, cohering as both a foundation of and marginal to the larger narrative of American popular culture. As a result of that positioning, African American popular culture often strikes a balance between expressing both “national” and “racial” identities. My dissertation looks at the tensions inherent in such a balancing act, and contemplates what roles history, cultural appropriation and citizenship formation as a process of “cultural adaptation” play in the production, dissemination and maintenance of African American cultural production.

I first analyze this work—popular music, Hollywood film and Broadway theater aimed at mainstream audiences—as cultural citizenship work, broadly defined as the production of and interaction with culture by marginalized individuals as a way to negotiate the terms of citizenship alongside the more formal, political arenas in which citizenship is enacted.

In the first chapter, I use a case study of the 1976 musical Bubbling Brown Sugar to argue that the aesthetic labor of this cultural citizenship work was used by African American culture producers to align the divergent strands of the “national” and the “racial.” Through analysis of The Wiz and Saturday Night Fever my second and third chapters ask a similar question yet from different, perhaps opposing textual vantage points: how does cross-racial cultural sharing enhance yet critique the American project? How can we theorize what I call the “usability” of race across the “color line” to critique embodied practices of cultural belonging?
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493340
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