Kanye West is many things. So much that there is a course on him at Wash U? Indeed, say what you want about the mega-star hit-making rapper and pop culture juggernaut, Kanye West touches multiple sectors of American society from music to fashion. However, if you are a consumer of mainstream media, you probably know more about his public outbursts and prideful posturing, than you do his musical oeuvre.
Is Kanye West a scourge or a genius? Or both? When viewed through the American cultural prism, West becomes a fascinating figure for study. Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr. is a scholar who focuses on areas of Black popular culture and masculinities, cultural theory, and sexuality studies – who earned a doctorate in performance studies – and these areas of research specialization will inform his Assembly Series presentation, Mumbo Jumbo: The (in)Audibility of Kanye West, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 in Knight Hall Emerson Auditorium.
To McCune, who is teaching the course, Kanye West is a minefield of textual and musical brilliance, and this lecture – the second of three public talks that McCune will deliver — examines West’s use of the inaudible—both in speech and visual practice—to illuminate the unknowingness of blackness more broadly.
More precisely, McCune’s presentation will explore West as an enigma to the American public, known mostly through popular iconography, which can render black figures inaccessible and deem them unworthy of what may be understood as ‘common generosity.’ Like black men and women who are often subjected to heavy policing, black artists are often judged by the scripts given in the public imaginary, which is always beyond the scope of what is humanly possible. This lecture will examine West’s “inaudibility”—though often thought of as a flaw—as a resistance strategy within an era, where ‘all wish to know’ rather than embrace the unanswered, opaque, and unavailable.”
“Mumbo Jumbo: The (in)Audibility of Kanye West” will be preceded on February 15 by McCune’s introductory lecture, “Kanye West and the Impossibility of Black Genius” and will be followed by the final talk on April 12, ‘Name One Genius that Ain’t Crazy’: Kanye West and The Politics of Self-Diagnosis.” All 3 lectures will begin at 6 p.m., location to be announced at a later date.
McCune is an associate professor of African & African American Studies, and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and his doctorate from Northwestern University, McCune joined the faculty at the University of Maryland-College Park.
The author of the award-winning book, “Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing” (University of Chicago Press, 2014) is currently working on two book projects; not surprisingly, one is titled, On Kanye.