Doctoral Dissertation Defense by Synatra Smith

Event information
Venue:MMC, LC 309


Florida International University
University Graduate School

Doctoral Dissertation Defense


On and Off the Stage at Atlanta Greek Picnic: Performances of Collective Black Middle-Class Identities and the Politics of Belonging


Synatra A. Smith

This dissertation presents a thick ethnography that engages in the micro-analysis of the situationality of black middle-class collective identification processes through an examination of performances by members of the nine historically black sororities and fraternities at Atlanta Greek Picnic, an annual festival that occurs at the beginning of June in Atlanta, Georgia. It mainly attracts undergraduate and graduate members of these university-based organizations, as they exist all over the United States. This exploration of black Greek-letter organization (BGLO) performances uncovers processes through which young black middle-class individuals attempt to combine two universes that are at first glance in complete opposition to each other: the domain of the traditional black middle-class values with representations and fashions stemming from black popular culture. These constructions also attempt to incorporate—in a contradiction of sorts—black popular cultural elements in the objective to deconstruct the social conservatism that characterizes middle-class values, particularly in relation to sexuality and its representation in social behaviors and performances. This negotiation between prescribed middle-class values of respectability and black popular culture provides a space wherein black individuals challenge and/or perpetuate those dominant tropes through identity performances that feed into the formation of black sexual politics, which I examine through a variety of BGLO staged and non-staged performances.

Date: March 20, 2015
Department: Global and Sociocultural Studies
Time: 2:00pm
Major Professor: Dr. Jean Muteba Rahier
Place: Labor Center 309