Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Jean Muteba Rahier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Vrushali Patil

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Andrea Queeley

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Alexandra Cornelius

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


black middle-class, identity performance, black Greek-letter organizations

Date of Defense



This dissertation presents a thick ethnography that engages in the micro-analysis of the situationality of black middle-class collective identification processes through an examination of performances by members of the nine historically black sororities and fraternities at Atlanta Greek Picnic, an annual festival that occurs at the beginning of June in Atlanta, Georgia. It mainly attracts undergraduate and graduate members of these university-based organizations, as they exist all over the United States. This exploration of black Greek-letter organization (BGLO) performances uncovers processes through which young black middle-class individuals attempt to combine two universes that are at first glance in complete opposition to each other: the domain of the traditional black middle-class values with representations and fashions stemming from black popular culture. These constructions also attempt to incorporate—in a contradiction of sorts— black popular cultural elements in the objective to deconstruct the social conservatism that characterizes middle-class values, particularly in relation to sexuality and its representation in social behaviors and performances. This negotiation between prescribed v middle-class values of respectability and black popular culture provides a space wherein black individuals challenge and/or perpetuate those dominant tropes through identity performances that feed into the formation of black sexual politics, which I examine through a variety of BGLO staged and non-staged performances.





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