The book I’ve written that most tried to talk to frames my concern with popular culture.
To a more general audience is the collection of essays Outlaw culture. And at the beginning of that book, I say that students from different, you know, class backgrounds and ethnicities would come to my classes, and I would want them to read all this metalinguistic Theory and of different and other nests. And they would say, well, what does this have to do with our lives? And I found that if I took a movie and said, well, did you see this movie and like, how did he do? What do you think about it? And I related something very concrete and popular culture to the kind of theoretical paradigms that I was trying to share with them through various works. So people seem to grasp it more and not only that it would seem much more exciting and enjoyable for everybody. Because popular culture has that power in everyday life. My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you’re going to get. Whether we’re talking about race or gender, or class, popular culture is where the pedagogy is. It’s where the learning is. And so, I think that part people like me who started off making feminist Theory or more, traditional literary criticism, or what have you begin to write about popular culture mainly because of the impact it was having as the primary pedagogical medium for masses.
People globally who want to in some way. Understand the politics of difference.
I mean, it’s been fascinating for someone like me both in terms of the personal desires I have to remain bonded with the working class culture and experience that I came from, as well as the sort of Southern black aspect of that. And at the same time, to be a part of the diasporic world, a culture of ideas, and to see how there can be a kind of interplay between all of those different forces, popular culture.
It is one of the sites where there can be an interplay.
My sense is the most enabling resource I can offer as a critic or intellectual. Professor is the capacity to think critically about our lives. I think thinking critically is at the heart of anybody transforming their life. And I believe that a person who thinks critically, who may be extraordinarily disadvantaged materially, can find ways to transform their lives. That can be deeply and profoundly meaningful in the same way that someone who may be incredibly privileged materially and in crisis in their life. Maybe May remains perpetually unable to resolve their life in any meaningful way. If they don’t think critically as someone who’s moved from teaching at very fancy, private, predominantly white schools to teach at an urban, predominantly Nan, Dwight campus in Harlem, the first thing I noticed was that my students were equally brilliant in the Harlem setting as they were when I taught at Yale or Oberlin, but their senses of what the meaning of that Brilliance was and what they could do with it. So their sense of agency was profoundly different, you know, when students came to Yale, they came there knowing that they’re the best and the brightest, and they think that they have a certain kind of future ahead for them.
And they essentially are open to embracing that future. It has nothing to do with the level of knowledge. You know, it has more to do with their sense of entitlement about having a future. And what I see among my brilliant students Up In Harlem, many of whom have complicated lives. They work and have children because they don’t have that sense of entitlement. They don’t have that image of a future of the NSA. Many professors do not try to give them the gift of critical thinking in a certain kind of condescending way. Way education says, all these people need is tools for survival, essential survival tools like their degree so they can get a job and not in fact that we enhance their lives in the same way, we’ve enhanced Our Lives by engaging in a certain kind of critical process.