Insecure, Awkward, and Winning: Intersectionality of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Works of Issa Rae
Call for Contributors: Insecure, Awkward, and Winning: Intersectionality of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Works of Issa Rae
Edited by: Adria Y. Goldman, Ph.D., Joanna L. Jenkins, Ph.D., Andre Nicholson, Ph.D. and LaRonda Sanders-Senu, Ph.D.
“I was like, ‘Yo is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
– Issa Rae, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
For years, scholars have researched media as a socializing agent. Kellner (2003) refers to media as cultural pedagogy, teaching viewers “how to behave and what to think, feel, believe, fear, and desire—and what not to” (p. 9). Even when fictional, media messages can impact a person’s perceptions of self and the world. This capacity of media can be harmful, considering the history of representation and inclusion as it relates to minority audiences. While shows such as Living Single and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air offered a refreshing break from the usual Black stereotypical roles, writer, actress, and producer, Issa Rae explains such representations are not always relatable for Black viewers. As noted above, Rae recognized the importance of representation and the need for media to mirror the world’s diversity. As a result, she created her own media with more complex characters. Her web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (ABG), highlighted insecurities she, and her counterparts, experience as Black women. Her series rose to stardom, and today Rae is at work on the fourth season of her HBO series, Insecure. Rae’s show is interesting for a number of reasons. She describes Insecure as unapologetically Black. She follows in the footsteps of Shonda Rhimes, offering the world Black women as leading ladies breaking the restrictive, unflattering characterizations from the past. Both her web and HBO series were fueled by a diverse writing room, representing various cultural identities and resulting in successful new media technologies and artistry reflective of a myriad of intersectionality. The cast of Insecure features four Black women navigating life. Like ABG, Rae’s characters are complex and, as she explains, flawed. In her quest for dynamic Black entertainment, Rae uses her voice to create a space to confront converged dimensions of gender, race, class and socioeconomic politics. While Rae has no shame in explaining her show was created, as FUBU puts it, for us and by us, ratings reveal that more than half of the Insecure audience is White. With a loyal fan base and many projects underway, Rae, a young, Black, female media creator, has found a winning formula—and not just for Black audiences. Her work offers a fertile space where contemporary issues intersect, encouraging audiences to discuss meaning and impact within their own lives, society, and cultural identities.
This edited collection will unpack Rae’s works by exploring various themes and the complexity of her characters and storylines. The goal of the project is to feature an interdisciplinary collection of provocative essays from academic scholars, professional media practitioners, and public figures. Essays will explore Rae’s work(s), positing assertions about its significance. Topics may include:
· Discussion reflecting approaches pertaining to race, class, sexuality, and/or gender (examples: Black Feminist Thought, Womanism, the White Gaze, the Male Gaze, Critical Race Theory)
· Discussion reflecting approaches pertaining to media influence (examples: Agenda-Setting, Framing, Social Construction of Reality, Spiral of Silence)
· Representations of Black masculinity
· Commercialism in Black media
· The intersection of literature from the African Diaspora and Black bodies on film
· LBGTQA+ issues
· Interracial class dynamics
· Analysis of Insecure’s “writer’s room”
· Significance of physical context (examples: Los Angeles, workplace dynamics)
· Treatment of race in the workplace (example: Rae’s experience with fictional employers)
· Body image issues
· Fandom and parasocial relationships
· Analysis informed by Critical Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and/or Intersectionality research
· Scholarly and/or professional criticisms of Rae’s work(s)
· Black popular culture (significance, Rae’s contributions)
· Comparative study of Rae’s work(s) to other projects
· Analysis of Insecure’s website
· Analysis of Insecure’s marketing and advertising
· Discussion of new media techniques, mass communication and artistry
· Cast and viewers’ use of social media
· Unpacking “awkwardness” for women of color
· Rae’s business relationship with HBO
· Examining social and/or political issues discussed within Rae’s work(s)
· Rae’s use of humor
· Human subject research (with approval from an Institutional Review Board) exploring fans’ and/or critics’ reactions to Rae’s work(s)
This collection is under contract with Peter Lang International Academic publishers and is expected to be released as part of their Cultural Media Studies series.
Interested parties should submit (1) a 300-400 word chapter abstract and (2) a 50 word author bio, as one Microsoft Word document, to RaeProject2020@gmail.com by Monday, December 2, 2019. Writers will be notified mid-December. Completed essays are due February 29, 2020. The submission should be 10-20 pages (double-spaced; including references and illustrations) and follow APA format.
Adria Y. Goldman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication
University of Mary Washington
Joanna L. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Graduates Studies
Professional Studies and Continuing Education
Moore College of Art and Design
Andre Nicholson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Media and Communication
Middle Georgia State University
LaRonda Sanders-Senu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
Gordon State College
 Kellner, D. (2003). Cultural studies, multiculturalism, and media culture. In G. Dines & J. M. Humez (Eds.) Gender, race, and class in media: A Text-reader, 2nd edition (p. 9-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Issa Rae Project Team