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Brittney Cooper's Response to Guardian Article on Politicizing Beyoncé

Brittney Cooper's Response to Guardian Article on Politicizing Beyoncé

In Lauren Duca's op-ed at the Guardian on December 16, 2015, she took comments that I offered about pop singer Beyoncé out of context for a larger argument she wanted to make about the canceling of a course called "Politicizing Beyoncé." The course was formerly offered in the Rutgers Department of Women's and Gender Studies, where I am an assistant professor. I did not know about the course having been canceled until Duca called me, and I informed her that I was not able to speak at any level to the reasons for the course cancellation during our conversation. When she asked me whether Women's and Gender Studies as a discipline was hostile to the study of pop culture figures like Beyoncé, I disagreed. In Fall 2015, I taught an upper-level special topics course on Hip Hop Generation Feminism, in which we discussed many pop culture figures including Beyoncé. I also let her know that in my experience, the Rutgers Department of Women's and Gender Studies has been incredibly supportive of my work as a scholar of Black feminism and popular culture. My larger comments about the valuation of scholarship on Black women in academe more generally was meant to address a general trend, rather than to indict or otherwise implicate my department, who in fact supports the very kinds of scholarship that counteracts this trend. The ways she chose to frame my comments supported an agenda and set of beliefs that I do not share, and I regret that my comments have been taken in this manner. Rutgers Department of Women's and Gender Studies has been critical to supporting sound and rigorous Black feminist scholarship nationally and they continue to support both faculty and graduate students who work in these areas.

WGS Statement on Academia and Free Speech Rights

It is inherent to the discipline of Women's Studies to deal with complex subjects through theoretical lenses, which question conventional knowledge production. This department, one of the most distinguished departments of WGS in the country, has a highly visible faculty of national and international reputation invited to speak in various fora on sometimes highly controversial subjects. Such faculty members, as scholars, have not only a right, but also an obligation to produce and disseminate knowledge within and beyond the academy. Moreover, as private citizens, our faculty continue to enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any private citizen and in accordance with university policy the department supports their protection from institutional discipline in the exercise of these academic and free speech rights. 


Rutgers University Policy on Academic Freedom
 

Rutgers President on Free Speech and Academic Freedom

November 2017
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