Simone C. Drake, "Are You Entertained?: Black Popular Culture in the Twenty-First Century" (Duke UP, 2020)


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Simone C. Drake and Dwan K. Henderson's Are You Entertained?: Black Popular Culture in the Twenty-First Century (Duke UP, 2020) is an engaging and interdisciplinary exploration of contemporary black popular culture and how to think about this broad and diverse landscape, especially in relation to power, capitalism, gender identity, and presidential politics. Simone C. Drake and Dwan K. Henderson have pulled together a fascinating array of scholars of popular culture, cultural critics, as well as those who have produced popular artifacts. A number of the cultural voices in Are You Entertained? are presented in interviews at the end of each section of the book, with artists thinking through questions about black popular culture from an expansive perspective as a maker of art and as someone who creates within the context of politics, economics, and culture. Are You Entertained? is a dynamic, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary analysis of contemporary shifts, trends, and debates within the context of seeing and understanding black popular culture.

The book is divided into four thematic sections that pull together chapters that speak across academic disciplines and cultural artifacts to focus on the topics of “Performing Blackness,” “Politicizing Blackness,” “Owning Blackness,” and “Loving Blackness.” This approach weaves together the conversations in each chapter in an organic fashion, pulling together conceptual ideas as well as providing the reader with deep dives into films, music, television, visual art, theater, advertising, fashion, web series, and more. Embedded within the book are not only scholarly analyses of different kinds and sites of popular culture, but also images of fine art that are critiqued in context and extend the discussion of what the “pop” in popular culture means when discussing different forms of art and culture. Drake and Henderson have assembled authors and analysis that take the reader on an enlightening journey not only through popular culture artifacts, but also complex conversations about commodification, capitalism, and consumerism, and the tension between art and profit. The idea for this edited volume was to trace how and where black culture (high, low, popular) has moved from the margins to the mainstream, and what this means in terms of artistic ownership. Within this stream of analysis, there is the enduring dynamic that often surrounds black art and production, which centers around the unequal treatment and consumption, in all dimensions, of black art. This book not only takes up the question of black popular culture in the 21st century, but also provides the reader with actual engagement with art and critique, an experiential and academic undertaking for both the reader and the authors/editors.

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