Like no other word in the English language, the N-word spawns leading news headlines particularly when celebrities utter it: comedian Michael Richards, Dog the Bounty Hunter, John Mayer, Mel Gibson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Barbara Walters or Jesse Jackson, Sr. This word shows up in American childhood rhymes and ditties, in minstrel songs that are now popular Disney children’s songs, and in commercial advertisements. It punctuates some rap songs, is euphemized, buried in mock funerals, and bleeped from media broadcasts. Responding to one critic’s challenge “to create an environment for dialogue about the word’s purposes and problems,” the "Anatomy of the N-word" is an opportunity to hold under a critical microscope this single word described as “the most inflammatory, shocking and historic word in the English language.”
Join the CSRD and Professor Neal Lester, Foundation Professor English and Founding Director of Project Humanities, for this in-depth examination of the N-word that considers the term’s “continually shifting use” through the complex discourse of American race relations and ultimately, gauges more broadly the fundamental role of words, history, language, and performance to construct identities--individual, communal, and even national.