"Can't Knock the Hustle": Hustler Masculinity in African American Culture
Garnes, Lamar J. (Lamar Jordan) (author)
McGregory, Jerrilyn (professor co-directing dissertation)
Shinn, Christopher (professor co-directing dissertation)
Jones, Maxine (university representative)
Montgomery, Maxine (committee member)
Department of English (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
"Can't Knock the Hustle": Performances of Black Hustler Masculinity in African American Literature and Culture, reinterprets the African American social movements of the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s, emphasizing how the controversial performances of black men as black hustlers contributed to them. Reading the Black Power movement as a youth-driven reaction not only to the elders in the Civil Rights movement but also to the 1965 Moynihan Report that defined black men in terms of criminal deviance, I demonstrate how young black men sought to retain the masculinity, which they felt their elders had been stripped of, by becoming hustlers themselves. This study also claims that the selected texts should be privileged as hustler narratives, drawing attention to the function of the hustler as participating in a wider American tradition of upward class mobility. In the process, the black hustler hyperbolically emulates, criticizes, and rejects or restructures such concepts of individual 'rags-to-riches' capitalism and/or middle class respectability in order to achieve his own status and define his own terms for the construction of alternative black masculinities. Chapter One reconnects the black hustler to the badman, a hero in the African American folk tradition, and interrogates how the federal government and the film industry respectively demonized and commodified it. Chapters Two and Three illustrate how hustler masculinity in Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land and Malcolm X's The Autobiography serves as a social critique of race and class in the inner-city and argue that the (re)establishment of cultural, political, and/or spiritual communities are necessary for black males performers to transcend hustler masculinity. Chapter Four examines Elaine Brown's A Taste of Power and discusses how and to what extent she could lead the Black Panther Party when hustler masculinity plays a large role in the organization and function of relationships in the party. Chapter Five demonstrate how the commodification of the black hustler in the semi- autobiographical and fictional narratives of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines along with the presentation of the hustler figure in Blaxploitation films contributed its present denigration and sensationalism. The Epilogue addresses how hip hop performers such as Ice Cube, NWA, Nas, Jay-Z, and 50 cent, amongst others, are recovering and recuperating the figure of the black hustler to its representation prior to the early 1970s. Such work is needed because it assists in developing an understanding of how young black men learn to perform masculinity in particular kinds of urban communities and also to complicate how we understand black masculinity in terms of what Michael Eric Dyson called the "politics of respectability."
Donald Goines, Blaxploitation Films, Badman, Hip Hop, Iceberg Slim, Elaine Brown, Claude Brown, Black Hustlers, Black Masculinity, Malcolm X, Hustler Narrative
August 20, 2009.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jerrilyn McGregory, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Christopher Shinn, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Maxine Jones, University Representative; Maxine Montgomery, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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