ENGL 467 B1: The Black Dandy: Styling Masculinities in the African Diaspora

M. Bucknor


What accounts for the persistence of the transhistorical, trans-geographical, multiple iterations of the phenomenon of the dandy figure in black cultures? Moreover, what is the significance of styling and dress to black masculinities, especially in the context of oppression and the debilitating effects of global capital? Is black dandyism just the legacy of colonialism and imperial hegemony or can it be read as decolonial practice? To what extent can black aesthetics be linked to the ongoing and unfinished project of reconceptualizing the humanity of the black male subject? These questions and others will provide the critical energy force to animate our thinking about race, fashion, and gender construction. Using black dandy archives from short stories, novels, films, photography, the visual arts, music videos, magazines, fashion books from Canada, the Congo, Jamaica, Trinidad, the UK and the USA, this course will focus on the relationship between styling and black male subjectivity. In light of Zakiyyah Jackson’s advocacy for “alternative conceptions of being…produced by blackened people” (3), the course will consider the extent to which black aesthetics, especially fashion, can provide a new epistemology for rethinking black male humanity. We will give priority to theories from decolonial practice, fashion studies, critical race studies, affect studies, studies on black humanism and black masculinities.

Readings from essays and texts may include, but are not limited to:
Buckridge, Steeve O. The Language of Dress: Resistance and Accommodation in Jamaica, 1760-1890.
Cosgrove, Stuart. “The Zoot-Suit and Style Warfare.”
Ellis, Nadia. “Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall.”
hooks, bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity
Jackson, Zakiyyah Iman. Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Anti-black World
Lewis, Shantrelle P. Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style.
Majors, Richard, and Janet Mancini Billson. Cool Pose: The Dilemma of Black Manhood in America.
Mbembe, Achille. “Afropolitanism”
McMillan, Michael. "Saga Bwoys and Rude Bwoys: Migration, Grooming, and
Miller, Monica L. Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black
Diasporic Identity. (Central Text)
Neptune, Harvey R. “From Barefooted Men to Saga Boys: Gender, Class, and
Clothes in Occupied Trinidad”
Wynter, Sylvia. “Rethinking 'Aesthetics': Notes Towards a Deciphering Practice”