Hope and Change: The Representation of Barack Obama (ASA 2013, Abstracts due January 18th, 2013)

full name / name of organization: 
Cameron Leader-Picone
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This panel will focus on Barack Obama as a symbolic figure related to the idea of indebtedness. The logic of debt undergirds the idea that Obama’s election signals a transition into a “post-racial” era. This framework suggests that the election of Obama signals a full restoration of democratic values, an absolution for the sins of slavery and Jim Crow, and signals a decisive push towards a new era. In contrast, since his election, Obama has been critiqued for failing to demonstrate his indebtedness to communities of color. African American leaders have specifically critiqued the president for his failure to act on issues of particular interest to the black community. After being elected with an unprecedented multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition, such advocacy frames the president as owing a particular debt to the constituencies that have most supported his election and reelection. Similarly, the context of the financial crisis and subsequent recession has only exacerbated structural inequality along racial lines.
This panel proposes to analyze the representation of Obama in various media through the lens of these various symbolic constructions. Since his election, Obama has been variously framed as a figure of hope, transcendence, and even superheroic capabilities. How have authors, artists, the popular press, and even Obama himself framed the meaning of his election and position as the first black president? How do these representations relate to each other, as well as to broader discourses such as African American literature, political theory, American exceptionalism and others? Possible topics include:

• The literary representation of President Obama
• The idea of hope and its relationship to debt
• Post-racialism and Obama in the public discourse
• Obama in television and film
• Obama’s self-representation through his published works and through his speeches
• Obama’s relationship to black politics

Submit abstracts (300 words) and short biographical sketch (350 words) to Cameron Leader-Picone (cleader@ksu.edu) by January 18th, 2013.

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