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From Bourgeois to Boojie

Black Middle-Class Performances

Edited by Vershawn Ashanti Young with Bridget Harris Tsemo

Award Winner

African American Studies, Gender, Language and Literature, Performance Studies, Race and Ethnicity

African American Life Series

Published: April 2011
ISBN: 9780814334683
Pages: 392 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 5 black and white images
Published: April 2011
ISBN: 9780814336427

The timing of this collection could not be better; the historic election of Barack Obama as the first black American president of the United States offers the first sustained public examination of black middle-class life since the era that produced The Cosby Show.”

— Mark Anthony Neale

In From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances, editor Vershawn Ashanti Young and assistant editor Bridget Harris Tsemo collect a diverse assortment of pieces that examine the generational shift in the perception of the black middle class, from the serious moniker of "bourgeois" to the more playful, sardonic "boojie." Including such senior cultural workers as Amiri Baraka and Houston Baker, as well as younger scholars like Damion Waymer and Candice Jenkins, this significant collection contains essays, poems, visual art, and short stories that examine the complex web of representations that define the contemporary black middle class.

Young opens the book with a critical introduction that looks at the articulation of class and race as a mode of performing U.S. citizenship. In four thematic parts-Performing Responsibility, Performing Womanhood, Performing Media, and Performing Sexuality-contributors explore different aspects of middle-class blackness. Acknowledging that the black middle class could never be depicted satisfactorily by one genre or from one perspective, contributors include pieces as varied as drawings by Iowa artist Jean Berry; self-reflexive commentaries from cultural critics Bryant Keith Alexander, Houston Baker, Dwight McBride, and Greg Tate; a short story by novelist Venise Berry; and cultural critiques by scholars Harilaos Stecopoulos and Angela Nelson. The volume also contains a thoughtful foreword by performance artist and scholar E. Patrick Johnson and an astute afterword by sociologist Mary Pattillo.

The journey from bourgeois to boojie embraces the long journey of African Americans from the cotton field and the assembly line to the corporate conference table and the White House. This insightful and diverse volume will be relevant to scholars of performance studies, African American studies, American literature, performative writing, and sociology, as well as creative writers and those interested in contemporary political discourse on race.

Vershawn Ashanti Young is a performance artist, actor, and associate professor of African American studies, English, and performance studies at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity (Wayne State University Press, 2007) and co-editor of the forthcoming Code Meshing as World English: Policy, Pedagogy, Performance.

Bridget Harris Tsemo is assistant professor of African American studies and rhetoric at the University of Iowa. She studies African American literary and rhetorical traditions and race as a class performance.

Contributors Include:
Bryant Keith Alexander, Amiri Baraka, Venise Berry, Jean Berry, Eileen Cherry-Chandler, Kelly Brown Douglas, Claire Oberon Garcia, Candice M. Jenkins, E. Patrick Johnson, Houston A. Baker Jr., Sara F. Mason, Dwight A. McBride, Angela M. Nelson, Mary Pattillo, Harilaos Stecopoulos, Greg Tate, Lisa B. Thompson, Bridget Harris Tsemo, Damion Waymer, Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, Nazera Sadiq Wright, Vershawn Ashanti Young

From Bourgeois to Boojie dismantles the hegemonic 'master' narratives that seek to silence, stifle, and then sentence us to embody the mythic performances of a colorblind and classless America. I can't wait to engage this work with colleagues and students."

– Tami Spry, professor of performance studies in the communication studies department at St. Cloud State University and author of Body-Paper-Stage: Writing and Performing Critical Autoethnography

Based on the compelling assumption that identity is performative, Vershawn Ashanti Young collects and astutely frames original, cogent examinations of sites where nostalgia for two cherished American essentialisms-race and middleclassdom-collide. Rich in scope and insight, From Bourgeois to Boojie is important, timely, and provocative."

– Alan Nadel, author of August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth-Century Cycle and May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays in the Drama of August Wilson

Using E. Franklin Frazier's now classic 1957 Black Bourgeoisie as a starting point, From Bourgeois to Boojie insightfully analyzes the cultural and identity politics of the contemporary black middle class. Innovative in its juxtaposition of critical essays and creative texts, notable for its inclusion of such significant voices in African American literature as Houston A. Baker and Amiri Baraka, this volume very productively engages the question of what constitutes black bourgeois performances in the post–civil rights era. The editors have assembled an exciting and important collection."

– Harry J. Elam, Jr., Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities at Stanford Universit

The timing of this collection could not be better; the historic election of Barack Obama as the first black American president of the United States offers the first sustained public examination of black middle-class life since the era that produced The Cosby Show. As such, this volume offers an opportunity to put black middle class experiences into a broad historical context, while also indexing the realities of black middle class life in the mid-1980s."

– Mark Anthony Neale, professor of African and African American studies at Duke University and author of New Black Man<br /><br />

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