All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Mieke B Thomeer McBride

Advisory Committee Members

Michele Forman

Lisle Hites

Verna Keith

Magdalena Szaflarski

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The (mis)representation of Black populations in media has been extensively explored and critiqued by several scholars. From their introduction into media through radio to their visi-bility in television and news, the tropes of Black womanhood have carried over from colo-nialist perspectives to present day. Considering race and gender as cultural structures con-straining Black women through the assignment of stereotypical scripts, it is important to consider how, when and where Black women’s agency enters. Negative racialized and gendered stereotypes are informed by culture at large, but Black women’s agency impacts the interpretation of these (mis)representations, offering space for both conformity and re-sistance. Millennial Black women’s structure and agency are explored through the examina-tion of stereotypes ascribed to Black women by culture (structure), and Black women’s agency in identifying, adopting and/or resisting these stereotypes using semi-structured fo-cus groups and semi-structured interviews conducted in five U.S. cities. Broadly, I ad-dressed five questions. (1) How do Black women interpret these stereotypes? (2) How do these (mis)representations make them feel about themselves and other Black women, spe-cifically in the context of identity? (3) Do these (mis)representations serve as a subversive means to undermine Black women’s agency? (4) Lastly, if conceptual and physical absence is problematic for mental health, is some representation better than none where Black wom-en are concerned? If indeed some representation is better than no representation, how might Black women’s mental health outcomes be impacted by interpreting such (mis)representation in ways that empower them rather than diminish them? 5) And what of performativity? How might Black women be altering how they present themselves to the world to avoid scrutiny, discrimination, labeling and other adverse experiences at the inter-section of Black and woman? Symbolic annihilation theory undergirded by intersectionality served as the foundation for this work. Findings align with previous empirical evidence regarding representation’s impact on mental health but also brought forth new conceptuali-zations of Black women’s internalization or rejection of stereotypical scripts. I call these conceptualizations compulsory performativity and disruptive performativity. Findings pro-vide transformative concepts by framing symbolic annihilation as a form of systemic vio-lence that has social, health, and human rights consequences.

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