The Prancing J-Settes: Race, Gender, and Class Politics and the Movements of Black Women in the African Diaspora
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For years Black women’s subjectivity in the use of their bodies and movements has been overshadowed or completely erased by dominant hegemonic systems that created its own narrative of Black women, their bodies, and their movement. This thesis works to acknowledge and analyze the dialogic relationship among the narratives of Black women, Black women’s performances of their “theories of the flesh” through dance as well as their everyday activities, and the race, gender, and class conditions that inform said “theories of the flesh.” During football season, everyone in the African-American community of Jackson, Mississippi is looking at and talking about the dance company, the Prancing JSettes. There are audience members who critique their movements and costumes and there are those who view the group as a vital part of the community. Either way every audience member is captivated by the J-Settes because their cultural history is depicted by the women’s performance. How does this work? How is the Prancing J-Sette image constructed and by whom, and why and how does it persist? These are the questions I ask to examine the gender, class, and racial relations that are inscribed upon the movements of Black women in the African Diaspora. For a group whose African ancestors viewed dance as very spiritual, with such activities as the ring shout, it is interesting to note the ambivalence that surrounds the public dancing body in Jackson, Mississippi. While some Jacksonians view the female body in the public sphere with a Protestant Christian lens, they also enjoy the Africana aesthetics and aggressive energy of the J-Settes’ performances. Also, while the J-Settes buck their society’s hegemonic system of propriety, they also comply with some of these standards in their performance. I examine this ambivalence through the discourses of critical race theory, Black feminism, the social significance of African Diaspora dance conventions and HBCUs, and the classed, racial, and gendered power relations in the African Diaspora. I argue that the stories about the Prancing J-Settes can be expanded to present a genealogy and present state of contradictory values and issues of visibility affecting all Black women.
Wicks, Amber (2013). The Prancing J-Settes: Race, Gender, and Class Politics and the Movements of Black Women in the African Diaspora. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from