Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The ways in which African American women negotiate the intersections of popular media, dominant discourses of beauty, and identity are rarely explored. This work brings into focus how African American women consume, understand, and make meaning of mediated images and representations of African American women. In order to inform this particular research project, this study engages a constellation of literature and theoretical perspectives and explores historical representations of African American women and beauty messages they contain. Throughout this process I examine concepts of identity formation; discuss connections between sexuality and the politics of imagery; and investigate linkages between structural racism, popular media, and forms of cultural production. Through an interrogation of the complexities in how Black women make meaning of images of themselves, in relationship to mass media, I seek to excavate a set of realities known to many, but rarely articulated in academia. This study utilized empirical and qualitative methods that engage African American women, across four different generational groups, through in-depth interviews, a series of three participant observer focus groups/ women's healing circles, and individual journaling workshops. The combination of empirical and qualitative methodology allowed me to excavate and document ideas, struggles, and attitudes of African American women pertaining to beauty, identity, and the politics of media. From a grounded theoretical approach, this study seeks to gain insight into old and new processes of 'looking' and attempts to provide space for African Americans to counter the enslaving seduction of media images that negatively impact identity and self definition.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Sociology Commons