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Media arts and design professor awarded fellowship to study representations of Black women in pop culture


by Melinda Adams

 
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SUMMARY: Media arts and design professor Morgan Smalls was awarded a University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Inclusion Imperative Visiting Faculty Fellowship to research popular culture as an entryway to conversations on race, class, gender and power in television and digital media spaces.


Morgan Smalls, a media arts and design professor at James Madison University, was awarded a University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Inclusion Imperative Visiting Faculty Fellowship. Smalls will spend the Spring 2022 semester in residence at the Dresher Center for the Humanities at UMBC, where she will conduct research that explores “HBO’s 'Insecure' and Black Women in the Media.” This research will use popular culture as an entryway to conversations on race, class, gender and power in television and digital media spaces.

The increase of Black women content creators like Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Ava Duvernay and Issa Rae has contributed to greater visibility of Black women behind and in front of the screen. Smalls seeks to examine if and how shows like Rae’s "Insecure," which focuses on two millennial, African American female best friends and airs on HBO, challenge stereotypical portrayals of Black women. Moreover, she also plans to interrogate Black women’s use of digital spaces to explore how they interpret Black women characters, focusing on stereotypes of Black women, Black women friendships and relationships. In addition to representation, this project deals with the convergence of media, integration of technology and the use of social television in an evolving media landscape.

Inclusion Imperative Fellowships, funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are awarded to scholars committed to diversity and to the advancement of groups historically underrepresented in academia. In addition to a stipend, fellows receive access to administrative and research development services at the Dresher Center and other UMBC facilities. They are also paired with a faculty collaborator at UMBC. While in residence at the Dresher Center, Smalls will pursue her research project and participate in Inclusion Imperative programs, including workshops, seminars, talks, teaching labs and teaching network events.

Smalls has a doctorate from Howard University in communication, culture and media studies with a certificate in women’s studies. She came to JMU in Fall 2018 as a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow. Smalls is currently an assistant professor of media arts and design, where she teaches courses on mediated communication and gender, race and culture in digital media.

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Published: Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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