Rachel Jessica Daniel 2006, American Studies doctoral candidate and Instructor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the African-American/Africana Studies guest lecturer at Ursinus for 2013. Following her talk, "Dragging the Black Church: Tyler Perry, Steve Harvey, and Rickey Smiley Perform Black Women," she will host an open discussion about the interdisciplinary nature of her research and questions it raises, such as:
- What messages about the current cultural climate in the U.S. might we read through these popular comedians?
- What is the broad public perception of African-American believers and church culture?
- Does humor hinder or open dialogue about African-American representation and cultural groups?
Daniel's lecture, which she delivered on Oct. 22, was drawn from her dissertation, "Resurrecting the Black Church: Representations of the Black Church in a Post Civil Rights Movement Era." It unpacked cultural production as practiced by Tyler Perry, who is known for his comedic drag representations of African-American working-class women. Perry, a writer, director, actor and comedian, has become a significant shaper of contemporary popular culture and is the most prominent of three comedians who cover this terrain. Daniel writes, "dragging the black church is a performative gesture that performers use to playfully define black church culture. Drag is a tool that Steve Harvey, Rickey Smiley and Tyler Perry use in order to make claims about race, gender, class, and theology."