My name is Douglas Brunton and I'm a PhD candidate in the department of Communication Studies. Prior to joining the Department, I earned my MA in New Media and Society from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, a course of study that launched my research agenda. In my own research, I focus on media, culture, and identity in global contexts which in turn informs another related strand of research into surveillance studies. Drawing on postcolonial theory and critical race theory, this work is in the main concerned with the role online performance of self plays in the interpretive constructs of identity – particularly for people of color. These two strands of research converge in my dissertation project: The Creole Web: A Dasein for the Digital that uses the construct of the creole, rooted in the Latin creare (to create) as both a practice and lens to answer the question: How can the creole help us make sense of online performances of identity?

Can you give us an introduction to your course?

This seminar focuses on the surveillance or policing done on the construct of blackness in US society, using media as a site of cultural critique. Specifically, the seminar will focus on the portrayals of blackness in the media, from Sidney Poitier turning up for dinner, to the user-generated content of police interactions with people of color; to representations of race in the popular culture and how these constructions intersect with modern American culture more broadly. Building on critical race theory and touching on post-colonial and creole theories, we will pay close attention to the ever-shifting relationship between the media and society and its historical role in framing blackness – from the 1960s to today.  

What would you say to students who are considering taking your course? Why should they take it?

Particularly given the changing social climate in the country, I think one great thing about taking this course will be the opportunity to think, talk, and write analytically about race and its mediated construction in the United States in a safe space.

Is there a particular lesson plan or topic you will explore in the course that you are excited to delve into with your students? 

While I'm excited about the class as a whole and can't wait to start teaching, I'm most looking forward to screening movies that contextualize racial mores over time. I plan to screen one full length feature or documentary each week that will provoke discussion and analysis on the changing face of race over time and how these constructions influence behaviors and attitudes in real life. Beginning with films from the 1960’s and ending in the present, I hope to help students feel invested in the course, give them a sense of context for their learning, and help me to make the class really relevant and useful to them. 

Any plans for the summer, outside of teaching a course of your own design?

Traveling to The Bahamas and Colombia for academic conferences and enjoying the beauty of Michigan in the summer.