Rachel Jessica Daniel, American Studies doctoral candidate and Instructor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will visit campus as the African-American/Africana Studies guest lecturer on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in Pfahler Hall’s Musser Auditorium. The title of her talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Dragging the Black Church: Tyler Perry, Steve Harvey, and Rickey Smiley Perform Black Women.” The following day, Oct. 23, at Unity House, an open discussion will be held with Daniel from 12 to 1 p.m. about the interdisciplinary nature of her research and questions it raises.
Daniel is a 2006 Ursinus graduate, and her lecture is drawn from her dissertation, “Resurrecting the Black Church: Representations of the Black Church in a Post Civil Rights Movement Era.” It will unpack cultural production as practiced by Tyler Perry, who is known for his comedic drag representations of African-American working-class women. Perry, a writer, director, actor and comedian, has become a significant shaper of contemporary popular culture and is the most prominent of three comedians who cover this terrain. Daniel writes, “dragging the black church is a performative gesture that performers use to playfully define black church culture. Drag is a tool that Steve Harvey, Rickey Smiley and Tyler Perry use in order to make claims about race, gender, class, and theology.”