Double Negative: Race, Popular Culture, and the Politics of “Quality”

Lecture by Racquel Gates
Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 4:00pm

Rather than fall back on claims that “negative” racial representations found in popular film and television are damaging to black progress, Racquel Gates argues that they have been chronically overlooked and woefully underestimated. Just as a negative is necessary to produce a photograph, she asserts that positive images of African Americans that typically receive critical and scholarly attention cannot exist without negative representations. These images eschew respectability politics in favor of emotionally affective, sometimes excessive, contemplations of life, love, and the daily experiences of blackness. Through close textual readings and theoretical analysis, Gates celebrates those types of black images located in the figurative gutter of taste politics and calls for a new approach to the study of black popular culture.

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 (2018) and has written numerous essays on film and media for Film Quarterly, Television & New Media, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Copies of Gates's 2018 book Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture will be available for purchase, courtesy of the Seminary Co-op.

Co-presented by the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.