Call for Participants

Academic Learning Community: 

Sexuality and Sacredness in Contemporary Black Culture

Emory University

Spring 2018

Convener: Beretta E. Smith-Shomade, Associate Professor, Film and Media Studies

This learning community will examine the intersection of sacredness and sexuality as they appear in 21st century black popular culture. Better than anyone else, Black folks, and Black women in particular, capture and articulate the connection between sexuality and spirituality in popular culture. Yet many Black diasporic artists recognize that sacredness is not the framework in which society operates effectively in the 21st century. Sacredness of texts, body, and soul have often been raped, stolen, and put on the market—making nothing seem sacred. Yet, the often tenuous and contested connection between sexuality and spirituality finds synergy in the artistic realm. Whether in song lyrics, music video, or even narratives from film to webisodes, many variant artists envision a world where the two are conjoined.

Critical questions involving definitions will be explored alongside texts—written, digital and media. One of the central goals of the community would be to grapple with what the rising hypervisuality and hyper sexuality mean to a U.S. and world that is both increasingly secular and sacred simultaneously.

Academic Learning Communities are informal seminars that are intended to:

  • engage faculty in collaborative explorations of innovative research and teaching topics;
  • bring guest speakers to campus to enhance the curriculum and learning; and/or
  • help disseminate important research discoveries and innovative learning strategies to the broader community.


  • The Seminar will meet from 1:30-3:00pm on the following dates: September 15, October 13, November 3, and December 1.
  • Potential outputs for the Academic Learning Community could include: collaborative writing across disciplines, a team-taught course, guest lecturing within one another’s courses, and use of findings and discussion to further a larger conversation both campus wide as well as across Atlanta with other colleges and universities, churches and select non-profits.
  • Each meeting will balance presentations by the facilitator or invited speakers with group discussions of pertinent readings and presentations by seminar participants.
  • Suggested readings will be posted on Canvas prior to the session, and/or will be made available separately. Some screenings will also be suggested.
  • Up to 20 participants will be accommodated and will include both faculty and graduate students from across the university. 

To apply, please fill out this form here

The deadline for application is Friday, August 25. 

Selections will be announced in early September. A limited number of spaces will be reserved for graduate students based on the relevance of their research to the topic.