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Unmooring the Moor: Researching and Teaching on YouTube


In this essay, Thompson analyzes how Asian-American students conceptualize, contest, and perform American blackness within their amateur Shakespearean performances. In the clips discussed, Othello is unmoored historically, linguistically, and narratively. Like many online student performance videos, these videos update the language, setting, and even the plot of Othello. In addition, these videos unmoor Othello racially, with casts comprised solely of Asian-American students. Therefore, Othello’s difference from the rest of the characters is visually unmoored (unlike performance videos that feature a black Othello or employ blackface). But the clips are disturbingly moored in a familiar performance strategy: they update Othello’s narrative by framing it in a fantasy of contemporary black American culture. Thompson finishes the essay with a discussion about the productive potential to unmoor Othello through the interactivity of the Internet.

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