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Black Histories and Futures Month: "A Discourse of Metalanguage: Race and Beauty" by Willem Rosenberg

Our third and final student submission for the Black Histories and Futures Month Student Research Showcase is "A Discourse of Metalanguage: Race and Beauty" by Willem Rosenberg. 

As Willem explains, his paper

explores race as a metalanguage where Evelyn Higginbotham and Stephanie Camp are placed in a dialogue with one another in their exploration of this phenomenon. I argue that Camp builds on and expands our understanding of race as a metalanguage in that its power extends beyond Higginbotham’s formulation of the interconnection of race and gender, class, and sexuality. As a commentary on the power and philosophy of language, this paper seeks to bring greater understanding to the use and the mention of the word ‘race.’ The social history of gender, class, and sexuality, become the primary areas of analysis to identify the complexities of the racial discourse –the creation of dichotomies: white/black, man/woman, rich/poor, and lady/woman. Camp’s formulation of beauty becomes an additional approach to understanding race. Finally, the paper explores that while race was employed for oppressive ends, it was also appropriated for the empowerment of black people by using a double-voice discourse and a culture of dissemblance.

In honour of Black Histories and Futures Month, the Department of History is featuring undergraduate student research that addresses Black histories, Black cultures, and Black experiences. Throughout the month of February, we will post the three essays deemed to be the strongest of the many exceptional projects we received during our open submission call. The selected papers were produced for courses in the Department of History and the Dan School of Music, namely: MUSC 271: Introduction to Hip Hop, HIST 473: Black Women in US History, and HIST 216: US Civil War and Reconstruction.  

We hope you enjoy reading our students’ work! The Selection Committee would like to thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration. Learn more about events on campus and in Kingston celebrating Black Histories and Futures Month here. 

Department of History, Queen's University

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Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.