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ShondaLand Symposium


Jan 29 - 30 2015


9:00 am - 2:00 pm


Forum for Scholars and Publics

011 Old Chemistry Building, Duke's West Campus Quad

ShondaLand Symposium

[ Click above to download the flyer ]


ShondaLand Symposium

Martha Jones, Treva Lindsey, Jessica Marie Johnson, Natalie Bullock Brown, Blair LM Kelley, Joan Morgan, Lisa B. Thompson, and Brittney Cooper

ShondaLand the Symposium and Watch Party
Thursday January 29 – Friday January 30

ShondaLand is the production company of television screenwriter and producer Shonda Rhimes, whose current series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder (for which she serves as executive producer) comprise the Thursday Night prime-time block on ABC. At the core of Rhimes’ productions are richly drawn, complex, contradictory Black Women and Women of Color who eschew traditional notions of Black and Female respectability. With the breakout success Scandal, which featured Kerry Washington as the first Black Female lead of a Primetime drama since the late Teresa Graves starred in the short-lived Get Christie Love! (1974-1975), Rhimes has helped revolutionize the use of social media in the promotion of television and helped galvanize an unprecedented community of Black Women viewers that recall the groundbreaking work of critic Jacqueline Bobo a generation ago.

ShondaLand the Symposium brought together a group of women scholars working in the fields of History, Women’s Studies, Law, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Black Diaspora Studies, and Media Studies to explore the broad implications of Rhimes’ work. The event began with a watch party at Durham’s Full Frame Theater in the American Tobacco Campus on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 29, with a light reception starting at 7:30 p.m, and viewing party from 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., where viewers gathered to watch and comment on the opening of the spring season of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away with Murder. On Friday, Jan. 30, the event continued with two panel discussions at the Forum for Scholars and Publics.

“I woke up like this”: Desire & Respectability in ShondaLand
Friday, Jan. 30 2015
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Natalie Bullock Brown, Saint Augustine’s University (Film and Interactive Media Studies)
Joan Morgan, New York University (American Studies). Twitter: @milfinainteasy
Treva Lindsey, The Ohio State University (Women and Gender Studies). Twitter:@divafeminist
Lisa B. Thompson, University of Texas at Austin (African & African American Diaspora Studies). Twitter: @playprof

Moderator: Anne-Maria Makhulu, Duke University. Twitter: @AnneKhalumba

This panel addressed issues around the desirability of Black Women, the importance of sexual desire in the lives of Black Women, and the ways tropes of respectability might police Black Women’s identity and expressive culture.

“You gotta testify because the booty don’t lie”: The (Il)Legality of Black Womanhood
Friday, Jan. 30 2015
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Brittney Cooper, Rutgers University (Women’s and Gender Studies; Africana Studies). Twitter: @ProfessorCrunk
Jessica Marie Johnson, Michigan State University (History). Twitter: @jmjafrx
Martha Jones, University of Michigan (History). Twitter: @marthajonesUM
Blair LM Kelley, North Carolina State University (History). Twitter: @profblmkelley
Moderator: Karla FC Holloway, Duke University. Twitter: @ProfHolloway

This panel examined the “equal protection clause” in the context of the intersectionality of Black Womanhood. In what ways are Black Women’s bodies protected and/or unprotected by the law? How are Black Women emboldened in the context of ShondaLand to protect, embody or undermine legal structures that won’t/don’t protect them?

Co-Sponsored by the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship, and the Durham County Library. The two panels were livestreamed and viewers shared thoughts and questions via Twitter using #dukeshondaland or #dukeshonda.


Natalie Bullock Brown

Saint Augustine's University

Natalie Bullock Brown is an award-winning and Emmy-nominated producer and consultant, and is chair of and an assistant professor in the Department of Film & Interactive Media at Saint Augustine's University in Raleigh, North Carolina. For more than a decade, Natalie served as co-host of Black Issues Forum, a public…...

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Brittney Cooper

Rutgers University

Brittney Cooper received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University in 2009. Professor Cooper is currently completing her first book Race Women: Gender and the Making of a Black Public Intellectual Tradition, 1892-Present. Her work focuses on Black women's intellectual history, Black…...

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Martha Jones

Johns Hopkins University

Martha S. Jones is the The Society of Black Alumni Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. Her scholarly interests include the histories of race, citizenship, and slavery. Professor Jones is the author of the critically acclaimed All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900…...

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Jessica Marie Johnson

Michigan State University

Jessica Marie Johnson is an Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University. Her research interests include histories of slavery and the slave trade; women, gender, and sexuality in the African diaspora; and digital history and new media and has appeared in Slavery & Abolition and Meridians: Feminism, Race and Transnationalism.…...

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Blair L.M. Kelley

North Carolina State University

Blair L.M. Kelley is Associate Professor of History and Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era…...

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Treva Lindsey

Ohio State University

Dr. Lindsey specializes in black feminist theory, women's history, and popular culture studies. Her first book entitled, Colored No More: New Negro Womanhood in the Nation’s Capital is under contract at the University of Illinois Press. Her next book project will focus on popular culture representations of contemporary African American…...

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Joan Morgan

Joan Morgan was born in Jamaica and raised in the South Bronx. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she has taught at the New School, Duke University, and Vanderbilt University and is currently pursuing her Ph. D in American Studies at NYU. Morgan began a career in journalism as a freelance…...

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Lisa B. Thompson

University of Texas at Austin

Lisa B. Thompson is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and the Associate Director of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Beyond The Black Lady: Sexuality And The New African American Middle…...

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Karla FC Holloway

Duke University

Karla FC Holloway is James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University. She also holds appointments in the Law School, Women's Studies and African & African American Studies. Her research and teaching interests focus on African American cultural studies, biocultural studies, gender, ethics and law. Professor Holloway serves on…...

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Anne-Maria Makhulu

Duke University

Anne-Maria Makhulu is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2003. Her research interests cover: Africa and more specifically South Africa, cities, space, globalization, political economy, occult economies, neoliberalism, Marxism,…...

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