Flint Water Crisis Studied by UI assistant professor Louise Seamster

Louise Seamster, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, says making nearly a half-million emails related to the Flint water crisis more easily usable for the public wouldn’t be possible without the partnership of the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio.

“This project is crucial for a lot of reasons,” says Louise Seamster, an assistant professor with dual appointments in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies. “For one, these emails reveal the backroom of decision-making and the process of deciding who to listen to. We don’t always have this backroom access of what was actually said and how that shaped the decisions that were made.”

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New book released by UI assistant professor Alfred L. Martin Jr.: The Generic Closet: Black Gayness and the Black-Cast Sitcom

Even after a rise in gay and Black representation and production on TV in the 1990s, the sitcom became a “generic closet,” restricting Black gay characters with narrative tropes.

Drawing from 20 interviews with credited episode writers, key show-runners, and Black gay men, The Generic Closet situates Black-cast sitcoms as a unique genre that uses Black gay characters in service of the series’ heterosexual main cast. Alfred L. Martin, Jr., argues that the Black community is considered to be antigay due to misrepresentation by shows that aired during the family viewing hour and that were written for the imagined, “traditional” Black family. Martin considers audience reception, industrial production practices, and authorship to unpack the claim that Black gay characters are written into Black-cast sitcoms such as MoeshaGood News, and Let’s Stay Together in order to closet Black gayness.

By exploring how systems of power produce ideologies about Black gayness, The Generic Closet deconstructs the concept of a monolithic Black audience and investigates whether this generic closet still exists.

New book released by UI professor Venise Berry: Racialism and the Media: Black Jesus, Black Twitter and the First Black American President

The nature of racial ideology has changed in our society. Yes, there are still ugly racists who push uglier racism, but there are also popular constructions of race routinely woven into medi- ated images and messages. In the twenty-first century, we need a more nuanced understanding of racial constructions.

Racialism includes, but moves beyond traditional racism. It involves images, ideas, and issues that are produced, distributed, and consumed repetitively and intertextually based on stereotypes, biased framing, and historical myths about African American culture. These representations are normalized through the media, ultimately shaping and influencing societal ideology and behavior.

A Theory of Racialized Organizations by associate professor Victor Ray

Organizational theory scholars typically see organizations as race-neutral bureaucratic structures, while race and ethnicity scholars have largely neglected the role of organizations in the social construction of race. The theory developed in this article bridges these subfields, arguing that organizations are racial structures—cognitive schemas connecting organizational rules to social and material resources. I begin with the proposition that race is constitutive of organizational foundations, hierarchies, and processes.

Next, I develop four tenets: (1) racialized organizations enhance or diminish the agency of racial groups; (2) racialized organizations legitimate the unequal distribution of resources; (3) Whiteness is a credential; and (4) the decoupling of formal rules from organizational practice is often racialized. I argue that racialization theory must account for how both state policy and individual attitudes are filtered through—and changed by—organizations.

Seeing race as constitutive of organizations helps us better understand the formation and everyday functioning of organizations. Incorporating organizations into a structural theory of racial inequality can help us better understand stability, change, and the institutionalization of racial inequality. I conclude with an overview of internal and external sources of organizational change and a discussion of how the theory of racialized organizations may set the agenda for future research.