Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 57 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kathleen H Averett

Committee Members

Lisa Arrastia, Ronald N Jacobs


aesthetic public sphere, Ferguson, Foucault, Louis C.K., power, stand-up comedy, Stand-up comedy, Women, Women comedians, African Americans, African American comedians, Sexual minorities, Gay comedians

Subject Categories



This master’s thesis theorizes the political and cultural significance of stand-up comedy as an institution in the contemporary US public sphere, against the dominant perception that it is an enterprise severed from social consequence. Via a critical application of Ferguson’s theorization of power in The Reorder of Things (2012), in addition to a reading of stand-up comedy routines and related public discourse that utilizes feminist and queer of color theory, I show how subjective terrains of race, gender, and sexuality produce the discursive and political materials which organize stand-up discourse and performance in moments of “racial comedy,” “gender comedy,” and “sexual comedy.” I argue that this landscape of cultural production emerges from, but also partially constitutes, a general conflict (as well as many specific ones) between dominant and critical formations of race, gender, and sexuality. Further, I show that the historical and political viscosity between hegemonic and critical projects has deep implications for contemporary modalities of perspective-taking in, enjoyment of, and affect toward stand-up comedy. To support this argument, I examine dominant articulations of the social formations of racism and heteronormativity and posit their salience in contemporary iterations of stand-up comedy; and I theorize how a critique of those intersecting political domains—stand-up, racism, and heteronormativity—suggests a new space for and mode of critique and critical pedagogy. I conclude by discussing the emotional politics of doing critical scholarship as a hegemonic figure in the milieu of US cultural politics.

Included in

Sociology Commons