Plastic Sapphires: Black Femininity and the Market of Sexuality Open Access

Hill, Cassaundra (Spring 2019)

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This thesis explores the role of black aesthetic appropriation in contemporary culture. Through the lens of pop culture, I intend to show how liberal ideologies and dilemmas of race, sex, and class are inexorably tied, and have led to widespread normalizations of antiblackness by means of aesthetic exploitation in the 21st century. Consumerism has infected the body, so to speak, under the operation of capitalism and within the context of white hegemony, science, medicine, and technology have denaturalized the body into a utopian dream of plasticity, always open to scrutiny and change. Yet this dream falls short of ideal when understood in contextual reality, and it becomes much less liberal in its application upon further inspection. Using the example set forth by the United States’ most preeminent reality television stars, the Kardashians of popular show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I explore how contemporary mass culture’s neoliberal subject is predicated on a history of white racism and antiblackness. By engaging in a discussion of modern aesthetic trends in cosmetics I will explore the ways in which our current cultural moment presents itself as nothing more than a technologically advanced continuation of its past. The exploitation, minstrelsy and negrophilia, and other traditions important for the maintenance of whiteness that are found there, in other words, are still with us today, hidden behind a curtain of liberal ‘progress’ and I argue they have major influence on the way the body is viewed today.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Desire and Difference...2

Chapter One: Mythology and Masses...7

Chapter Two: Codification and Co-option...15

Chapter Three: Reality and Recognition...22

Conclusion: (De)contextualizing Difference...29

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