Biggest college regret? Not going into American Studies. I COULD HAVE BEEN GETTING A PHD IN FIERCENESS LIKE MADISON MOORE!
For the past semester [Fall 2011], roughly 15 students in Yale College have been studying something rather out of the ordinary, academically-speaking: clubbing. The class, “Dance Music and Nightlife Culture in New York City,” has recently gotten the attention of several national news outlets…The class’s instructor [is] Madison Moore GRD ’12—a Ph.D. candidate in Yale’s American Studies program…and a minor star in The Gossip’s “Men in Love” music video…
Q. Okay, so, Professor Moore, how did you come up with the idea for this class?
A. It really comes out of my dissertation research, which is about how glamour has been performed in the late 20th century. So, in my dissertation I have chapters about Tina Turner and fierceness … Really! There’s another chapter on Andy Warhol and this theorist from the 19th century, Thorstein Veblen, who gave us the idea of conspicuous consumption. There’s other stuff on music and I have a chapter on nightlife in the ’80s—and so this is originally where [the idea for the class] came from.
Q. Wait, so let’s go back to that chapter on Tina Turner and fierceness. What is that about?
A. Okay, so what I’m trying to do is think about fierceness as a way that minoritized groups — like gay men, women, people of color — have used to express themselves aesthetically.
Q. Wait, but before you continue — what is fierceness?
A. Okay! Fierceness, I think, is a way of kind of returning the gaze. So in popular culture, we talk about how images and people are looked at — fierceness, I think, looks back at you. I think it’s a way of changing the social dynamic in a room…
Q. So it instigates self-reflection in a way, or self-consciousness in people who … aren’t fierce?
A. No, no, no, it’s not about that. Well, it’s a really broad question because the dissertation overall is looking at glamour, and glamour has usually been written about from a perspective that talks about Hollywood, and whiteness in particular. And so my interest in fierceness actually comes from the fact that when I was researching glamour and looking at all of the Hollywood stars, there was no conversation about [B]lack bodies or Asian bodies or queer bodies in terms of the production of glamour. I was like, “Something is wrong here.” So when I started to look at Tina Turner’s videos, I thought maybe [B]lack and queer bodies are doing something different altogether — maybe it’s not glamour, maybe it’s fierceness, which is where the idea comes from…