Scholar, Writer, Educator, Critic

Books

webA lover of words – from reading to writing – Janell Hobson has authored two books and has edited the volume, Are All the Women Still White? (SUNY Press, 2016), and guest-edited special issues for Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism on “Representin’: Women, Hip-Hop, and Popular Music” (vol. 8, no. 1, 2008) and “Harriet Tubman: A Legacy of Resistance” (vol. 12, no. 2, 2014).

Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012).

Analyzes how race and gender intersect in the rhetoric and imagery of popular culture in the early twenty-first century.

In Body as Evidence, Janell Hobson challenges postmodernist dismissals of identity politics and the delusional belief that the Millennial era reflects a “postracial” and “postfeminist” world. Hobson points to diverse examples in cultural narratives, which suggest that new media rely on old ideologies in the shaping of the body politic.

Body as Evidence creates a theoretical mash-up of prose and poetry to illuminate the ways that bodies still matter as sites of political, cultural, and digital resistance. It does so by examining various representations, from popular shows like American Idol to public figures like the Obamas to high-profile cases like the Duke lacrosse rape scandal to current trends in digital culture. Hobson’s study also discusses the women who have fueled and retooled twenty-first-century media to make sense of antiracist and feminist resistance. Her discussions include the electronica of Janelle Monáe, M.I.A., and Björk; the feminist film odysseys of Wanuri Kahiu and Neloufer Pazira; and the embodied resistance found simply in raising one’s voice in song, creating a blog, wearing a veil, stripping naked, or planting a tree. Spinning knowledge out of this information overload, Hobson offers a global black feminist meditation on how our bodies mobilize, destabilize, and decolonize the meanings of race and gender in an increasingly digitized and globalized world.

Reviews:

Picture 3By racializing the analysis of technology, Janell Hobson brings to the forefront some very important issues regarding the digital divide. There is a tendency in some areas of academia to wholeheartedly celebrate new technologies without giving enough thought to how class, gender, race, and geographical divisions affect both the production and consumption ends of the chain.” — Gail Dines, coeditor of Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, Third Edition

“In Body as Evidence, Hobson challenges what’s become a dangerous and increasingly pervasive 21st century media narrative: that equality has been achieved and women and people of color across the globe have a ‘voice,’ not just in telling their stories but in shaping political and social discourse.” — Lynell George, in Ms. Magazine, Fall 2012 issue.

Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture (NY: Routledge, 2005).

Western culture has long been fascinated by black women, but a history of enslavement and colonial conquest has variously labeled black women’s bodies as “exotic” and “grotesque.” In this remarkable cultural history of black female beauty, Janell Hobson explores the enduring figure of the “Hottentot Venus.”

In 1810, Sara Baartman was taken from South Africa to Europe, where she was put on display at circuses, salons, and museums and universities as the “Hottentot Venus.” The subsequent legacy of representations of black women’s sexuality–from Josephine Baker to Serena Williams to hip-hop and dancehall videos–continues to refer back to this persistent icon. This book analyzes the history of critical and artistic responses to this iconography by black women in contemporary photography, film, literature, music, and dance.

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