Edited collection on contemporary African American satire in all media

full name / name of organization: 
Derek C. Maus and James J. Donahue
contact email: 

Patrice Evans, who blogs under the moniker “The Assimilated Negro,” published an online essay on the ebonyjet.com website late in 2007 that lamented the seeming lack of satire in mainstream black culture:

[W]hy does it seem like black people are missing the boat -- treating the SS Satire like a slave ship? Sometimes it feels we only get the joke if it's the lowest common denominator, otherwise we have to put on our suits and let Oprah or Tyler Perry hold our hands and make sure there's a heavy Maya Angelou level of respect.[…] Where are the black branded satirists? Maybe we don't get it. Maybe we don't care to get it. Are there no satirists because of the lack of demand? It can't be for lack of opportunity. Every week we get a new race-event begging for lampooning: Watson, Jena 6, OJ, Imus, Michael Richards, Vick .... all present unique opportunities to make a joke that might mean a little more to someone with melanin.

Evans goes on to engage in some “speculative armchair psychology” and wonder openly if what he calls the “critical”, “literary”, and “detached” elements of satire are not barriers to African Americans’ participation in this mode of cultural commentary. Not surprisingly, Evans’s article garnered numerous online responses, both in its original form and in numerous repostings around the Internet. We seek to assemble a collection of scholarly essays about satire in contemporary African American culture in order to develop that response in both depth and breadth, examining both the premises that undergird Evans’s original claims and a range of African American satirists working in a variety of media over the past thirty years.
Our volume seeks to build on the solid foundation laid by Darryl Dickson-Carr’s African American Satire (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2001) and the contributors to Dana Williams’s collection African American Humor, Irony and Satire (Cambridge Scholars, 2007). To that end we seek essays that critically examine African American satirical works since 1980, with an eye towards synthesizing a nuanced picture not only of the variety of forms in which African American satire appears but also of the larger media environment in which it participates. We invite close readings of individual satirists (a list of potential topics is appended below, but we welcome essays on other artists, especially women, from all media) as well as overarching meta-critical and theoretical discussions of themes, (sub)genres, or other aspects of the satirical mode as it relates to contemporary African American culture. We also would welcome essays that examine the use of satire by artists and within works not usually associated with the mode (e.g., Dickson-Carr’s discussion of Toni Morrison’s Jazz in his book) and wish to emphasize that our definition of satire is not limited solely to comedic or satiric-parodic works.

Proposals for essays should be between 750 and 1000 words and should articulate a clear critical question in relation to a set of primary and secondary texts. It is the editors’ view (in accordance with the view of most academic presses) that a successful edited collection needs a clear and compelling organizing narrative and, thus, successful proposals will articulate clearly which critical narratives are at work within their rhetorical structures and why. Completed proposals are due on January 1, 2012 and can be sent to either Derek C. Maus (mausdc@potsdam.edu) or James J. Donahue (donahujj@potsdam.edu) or mailed in hard-copy to Derek Maus, 244 Morey Hall, State University of New York at Potsdam, Potsdam, NY, 13676. We welcome any inquiries or questions about the volume prior to this submission date as well. Submitters will be notified about the status of their essays by February 1, 2012 and final essays of 4500-6000 words will be due on June 1, 2012 with a projected publication date some time in 2013. We have received strong initial interest in this volume from a major academic press and have every reason to believe it will be accepted for publication along to this timeline.

Possible topics (others are welcomed)

  • Dawolu Jabari Anderson (visual artist; The Birth of a Nation: Yo! Bumrush the Show)

  • Damali Ayo (conceptual artist and writer; rent-a-negro.com; Obaminstan!: Land Without Racism)
  • Kevin Avery (“Siskel and Negro”; Thugs: the Musical)
  • Paul Beatty (novelist; The White Boy Shuffle; Slumberland; Tuff; etc.)
  • W. Kamau Bell (The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour; Face Full of Flour; Laughter Against the Machine)
  • Black Dynamite (film)
  • Dave Chappelle (Chappelle’s Show; stand-up comedy)
  • Chocolate News (short-lived African American-themed satirical news-show on Comedy Central hosted by David Alan Grier)
  • Rusty Cundieff (Fear of a Black Hat; Tales from the Hood; etc.)
  • Ego Trip (magazine and website)
  • Trey Ellis (novelist, screenwriter; Platitudes; Home Repairs; Right Here, Right Now)
  • Patrice Evans (Negropedia: The Assimilated Negro's Crash Course on the Modern Black Experience; “The Assimilated Negro” blog)
  • Percival Everett (novelist; A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett & James Kincaid; Erasure; I Am Not Sidney Poitier; etc.)
  • Donald Glover (stand-up comedy; Community; "Childish Gambino" hip=hop performances)
  • David Hammons (visual and conceptual artist; "African American Flag")
  • D. L. Hughley (stand-up comedy; D.L. Hughley Breaks the News [CNN show])
  • Darius James (Negrophobia: An Urban Parable)
  • Charles Johnson (novelist; Oxherding Tale; Middle Passage; etc.)
  • Mat Johnson (novelist; Pym; Hunting in Harlem)
  • Keith Knight (cartoonist of The K Chronicles and (Th)ink)
  • Spike Lee (filmmaker; School Daze; Bamboozled)
  • Aaron McGruder (Boondocks comic strip and television show)
  • Paul Mooney (stand-up comedy; television)
  • Tracy Morgan (stand-up comedy; Saturday Night Live; 30 Rock)
  • Z.Z. Packer (short-story writer; novelist; Drinking Coffee Elsewhere)
  • Ishmael Reed (novelist; The Terrible Twos; The Terrible Threes; Japanese By Spring; Juice!)
  • Chris Rock (Saturday Night Live; The Chris Rock Show; stand-up comedy)
  • Wanda Sykes (stand-up comedy; various television shows)
  • Baratunde Thurston (writer and editor for The Onion; Better Than Crying: Poking Fun at Politics, the Press & Pop Culture; How to Be Black)
  • Touré (novelist, short-story writer; journalist; Soul City; The Portable Promised Land)
  • Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle)
  • Keenen Ivory Wayans and other Wayans family members (In Living Color; I’m Gonna Get You Sucka; White Chicks; etc.)
  • Colson Whitehead (novelist; The Intuitionist; John Henry Days; Apex Hides the Hurt; etc.)
  • George C. Wolfe (The Colored Museum)
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