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Patterson, Robert J.

Destructive Desires

Rhythm and Blues Culture and the Politics of Racial Equality


    217,95 € / $250.00 / £22.00*

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    Publication Date:
    April 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    Despite rhythm and blues culture’s undeniable role in molding, reflecting, and reshaping black cultural production, consciousness, and politics, it has yet to receive the serious scholarly examination it deserves. Destructive Desires corrects this omission by analyzing how post-Civil Rights era rhythm and blues culture articulates competing and conflicting political, social, familial, and economic desires within and for African American communities. As an important form of black cultural production, rhythm and blues music helps us to understand black political and cultural desires and longings in light of neo-liberalism’s increased codification in America’s racial politics and policies since the 1970s. Robert J. Patterson provides a thorough analysis of four artists—Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Adina Howard, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton—to examine black cultural longings by demonstrating how our reading of specific moments in their lives, careers, and performances serve as metacommentaries for broader issues in black culture and politics.


    Professional and scholarly;

    More ...

    ROBERT J. PATTERSON is an associate professor of African American studies and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is a coeditor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Expressive Culture (Rutgers University Press) and author of Exodus Politics: Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture.


    "This incisive,engaging analysis of post-Civil Rights era rhythm and blues culturemodels the best kind of cultural studies scholarship: resisting the tendencies to view popular culture as a passive reflection of conservative ideologies or to inflate its oppositional effects, Patterson's both/and approach reveals the rich and often contradictory ways in whichR&B culture navigates the pressures ofneoliberalgender and sexual politics."
    — Madhu Dubey, author of Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism

    "Contextualizing the music and careers of four seminal late twentieth-century R&B artists, Babyface, Toni Braxton, Adina Howard, and Whitney Houston, Robert J. Patterson’s exhilarating book grapples with the 'destructive desires'that compelled these artists’ negotiations of restrictive norms of black American gendered, class, and sexual performance. A work of tremendous intellectual 'whip appeal,'a 'front and center,''special brew'of engaged and illuminating interdisciplinary scholarship,Destructive Desires: Rhythm and Blues Culture and the Politics of Racial Equalityarrives 'just in time,'and will doubtlessly be savored."
    — Michael Awkward, Gayl Jones Professor of Afro-American Literature and Culture, University of Michigan

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