Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Kira Hall

Second Advisor

Jeremy Calder

Third Advisor

Laura Michaelis-Cummings

Abstract

This thesis addresses the question of the “thug” in US-American discourse. Often invoked in political talks about policing, protesting and interethnic contact, is often used as a shortcut to denote urban Black and Latino men as hypermasculine, aggressive, violent and criminal. It draws heavily on long-standing racial stereotypes and leads to racially biased ideology and policy as a controlling image (Hill Collins, 2009). Still, many African Americans refer to themselves or others proudly as thugs, without denigrating purpose, even in situations where it might be offensive for nonBlack people to do so. This thesis analyzes discourse displayed at three MSM porn websites featuring thugs as a main attraction; RealityThugs and ThugHunter, two sites geared toward a mainstream, predominantly white audience and ThugBait, a site more catered to working class Black men. These sites centralize, exaggerate and eroticize thugs, painting discursive characterological figures (Agha, 2007) that this paper uses to respond to the questions; Who are thugs to mainstream society? Who are they to Black society? What is their discursive impact when invoked? “Thug” is analyzed as a socially bivalent term (Woolard, 1999), focusing its emergence within hegemonic and nondominant discourses.

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