CALL FOR CHAPTERS:
Afterbirth of a Nation Afterbirth of a Nation: Urban Critical Pedagogy and Ghetto-centric Film Since Boyz n the Hood (1991)
One hundred years after the release of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, Birth of a Nation, the film remains on the list of the best films of all time. It is standard as a part of film studies’ curricula. A box office success, Birth popularized countless filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today. Yet, despite its commercial and artistic notoriety, Birth of a Nation is not immune to the controversy of being one of the most racist films. It celebrates the rise of the KKK while demonizing black men during America’s Reconstruction. The negative effects of its portrayal of black men have a lasting legacy on public sentiment towards racial minorities. It has been dogged mostly for its depictions of black men [white men in blackface] as violent and sexually deviant with a thirst for white female flesh.
In 1991, director John Singleton released Boyz n the Hood, a critically acclaimed film that brought the gritty life of the inner city to Hollywood’s movie screens. Boyz has been celebrated for its authentic depictions of gang violence and the realities of poverty for urban black youth. Boyz introduced us to John Singleton and can be counted as his singular, greatest work, earning him an Oscar nod and much fanfare. Simultaneously, however, the film is criticized for its depictions of black males as violent – arguably perpetuating similar stereotypes as those of 1915.
Ever on the path to follow Boyz’ success, filmmakers have chosen the inner-city as the setting for films featuring African-American casts. This text intends to inspire critical reflection and analysis of critically significant films set in urban environments, released after Boyz n the Hood. This effort is both a way to understand Singleton’s impact and legacy on American film and society, and also to critically exam the ghetto-centric genre for its value in impacting critical urban pedagogy.
Topics for discussion may include:
Black Film and Singleton’s legacy
- Significance and impact of individual films or a collective representation
- Constructions of Black identity and authenticity
- Themes of resistance and uplift in film
The Black Urban Experience
- Threat of violence and gentrification (displacement)
- Police surveillance
Black Urban Experience
- Single-parent households and cycle of poverty
- Significance of Black fathers and male role models
- “Strong” Black single mother architype and constructions of Black female identity
Critical Urban Pedagogy
- Implications for using films in social justice education
- Social, cultural, and political forces within urban education that relate to teaching students
The collection is under contract with DIO Press.
About the editors:
Brian C. Johnson, PhD, is an independent scholar focused on the intersections of film, popular culture and society. Johnson earned the PhD in Communications Media and Instructional Technology from Indiana University of PA. He is the author of Reel Diversity: A Teacher’s Sourcebook (2008), winner of the 2009 book award from the National Association for Multicultural Education. He also co-edited Glee and New Directions for Social Change (2015) and edited The Problematic Tyler Perry (2016). In 2018, he and James Vines published Reel Big Bullies: Teaching to the Problem.
Carley M. Shinault, PhD is a Postdoctoral Fellow in African American Studies at University of Houston. She earned her doctorate from Howard University, specializing in Black Politics and American Government. Published in Journal of African American Studies, National Political Science Review, and Phylon, Dr. Shinault’s body of research covers a range of the socio-political experience of African Americans in the United States. Her current research interests include the social and political impact of class stratification within the black community, gentrification, public opinion, and black feminist theory.
Double-spaced proposals and abstracts (250-500-words limit) should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 30, 2021. Authors will be notified of acceptance decision by June 15, 2021.