Pop culture seminar looks at gender, race, power and ‘Empire’



A panel discussion Sept. 16 will fuse academics and pop culture to discuss ideas of gender, power and race presented in the FOX TV show “Empire.”

“African American Studies and Pop Culture: A Look At The Empire Phenomenon,” takes place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Illinois Room C, Student Center East. Panelists include Jane Rhodes, professor and head of African American studies, Roderick Ferguson, professor of African American studies and gender and women’s studies, and Barbara Ransby, professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies, and history.

“We are lending our expertise to build a conversation about the wildly popular television program ‘Empire,’ which has black family, community and culture at its center,” Rhodes said. “We hope attendees will actively participate in the discussion, and will leave with enthusiasm for asking questions and thinking critically about popular culture.”

“Empire” focuses on the head of a music company and the drama that ensues as his family fights to gain control of his company, Empire Entertainment. Not only is the show popular among students, it’s rich in complexities that allow for fruitful discussion on disenfranchised populations, social constructs and identity development, said Nicole Nesmith, graduate assistant in the African American studies department.

“The ‘Empire’ event is the first step in starting the discussion about why ‘black lives matter,’” Nesmith said. “The answer to these issues does not inhabit just one sector of public life — it affects everyone.”

The event, presented by African American studies department, is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 312-996-2950.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to reflect a location change for this event.

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