CFP: Special Issue on Blackness @ Play: Communities, Culture, Creativity (Abstracts 9/15/20)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
American Journal of Play
contact email: 

Call for Papers 

American Journal of Play Special Issue

Blackness @ Play: Communities, Culture, Creativity

Guest Editor: TreaAndrea M. Russworm, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 



300-word abstract: September 15, 2020 

Full papers, if accepted: December 31, 2020

Articles 6,500 to 8,000 words; other works vary in length

Queries and submission:


Psychologists, educators, cultural theorists, and activists have long-argued that play and playfulness are essential tools of everyday survival that open up pathways for cognition, creativity, criticality, and collective joy. For example, writing in 1897 W.E.B. Du Bois posited that although amusement and play were not commonly framed as central to Black health and wellness, “at all times and in all places, the manner, method, and extent of a people’s recreation is of vast importance to their welfare.” The idea of a Black “people’s recreation”—of “recreation for the people”—remains full of potential. Despite this potential, nearly 125 years later scholarly discussions of play in Black communities remains underemphasized, just as play scholarship and theories of play have been plagued by practices of exclusion and racial bias. The politics of play remain real and widespread, as American police have shot and killed Black children who were playing; viral videos have spread on social media of Black pool parties and birthdays interrupted by gatekeeping neighbors making 9-1-1 calls; in schools, where Black children have been detained during playtimes like recess, play can been seen as a luxury of whiteness; Black adults are often harassed and actively excluded from mainstream fan communities and other adult play spaces.


Surely, who plays and what constitutes play has always been political, contested, and ever-connected to what Saidiya Hartman calls “the afterlife of slavery.” And yet, the ingenuity of Black people at play has always evinced a resiliency that includes but also stretches beyond lived experiences with state-sanctioned violence and racism. This special issue of the American Journal of Play seeks essays, interviews, and other creative and scholarly perspectives on past, present, and emerging examples of the intersections between Black culture and play. Just as the forms, methods, and tools of Black play are infinite, so too is the state of blackness at play expansive. As such, we seek a range of works that depict and explore the dynamic nature of Black people at play—from Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s doll studies, linguistic play, double dutch, and histories of playing the dozens, to DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine dance parties, Black Panther Cosplay, Black gaming enclaves, and the playful and critical interventions of Black digital content creators.


We welcome a wide range of thought-provoking and timely material on play in Black culture from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Possible topic areas might include:  

  • the politics and intersections of “playing while Black”   
  • oral folklore and word play traditions (hip-hop, rap, rhyme games, slam poetry, jokes,) 
  • film, television, and other media representations of Black play 
  • new critical perspectives on the Doll Test and Black childhood play development 
  • science fiction, Afrofuturism, and worldmaking 
  • digital play communities (gamers, streamers, Black Twitter, gifs/meme culture, etc.) 
  • cosplayers, LARPers, and other crossover forms of Black child/adult play 
  • Black players of board games, table-top games, and roleplaying games like D&D
  • Black toy makers; Black memorabilia collectors of toys, dolls, board and card games, video games, and other playthings 


For special issue consideration, please submit 300-word abstracts to no later than September 15, 2020. We remain mindful of the complicated ways in which COVID-19, anti-Black racism, and civil disobedience may impact potential contributors. We encourage interested scholars requiring additional time or accommodations due to these factors to contact the guest editor for this issue before the deadline.


The American Journal of Play, the oldest peer-reviewed journal devoted to play, is written in a straightforward style for a wide readership of scholars, educators, policy makers, museum and industry professionals, public health workers, and others who strive to understand the impact and importance of play in the world.  


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