The Political Aesthetics of Black Girl Magic: Self-Representation in Alternative Media


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art




Black Girl Magic describes the scintillating aesthetics of making oneself as a liberatory act. This dissertation investigates the political potential for resisting intersectional oppression when Black women represent themselves using alternative media such as comic books, zines, artist books, and digital productions. Using textual analysis, research creation, curation, and autoethnography, this multi-modal dissertation demonstrates how independent publications and alternative visual arts allow Black women to represent themselves outside the stereotypes that dominate mainstream media. Instead of the corporate-led prioritization of visuality, this dissertation rhetorically shifts the understanding of “magic” from a smoke and mirrors metaphor to witchcraft. Black Girl Magic is presented as three politicized gestures: flight, or fugitive departure, brew, or the materiality of poiesis, and brood, or critical collectivity. Expanding the epistemological sensorium of Black Girl Magic reveals a dialectical process of becoming through communication, power, and difference.