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Disciplining Women

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Cultural Politics of Black Sororities

Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

Publication Year: 2010

An interdisciplinary look Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), the first historically Black sorority. Black Greek-letter organizations offer many African Americans opportunities for activism, community-building, fostering cultural pride, and cultural work within the African American community. Disciplining Women focuses on the oldest Black Greek-letter sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, established in 1908. In this innovative interdisciplinary analysis of AKA, Deborah Whaley combines ethnographic field work, archival research, oral history, and interpretive readings of popular culture and sorority rituals to examine the role of the Black sorority in women’s everyday lives and more broadly within public life and politics. The study includes sorority members’ stories of key cultural practices and rituals, including political participation, step dancing, pledging, hazing, and community organizing. While she remains critical of the shortcomings that plague many Black social organizations with activist programs, Whaley shows how AKA’s calculated cultivation of sorority life demonstrates personal and group-directed discipline and illuminates how cultural practices intersect with politics and Black public life.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority members offered me support, guidance, and interviews. Cheryl Washington, the former graduate advisor of the Zeta Psi AKA chapter, made it possible for me to sit in on AKA meetings and locate internal publications of the sorority through her contacts. AKA member ...

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pp. 1-12

Although I received yearly invitations, I never pledged a sorority when I was an undergraduate. I did my undergraduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), a place known for making the linkages between being a public intellectual and community organizing. My chosen field of ...

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1: Stomp the Yard, School Daze, and the Cultural Politics of Black Greek-Letter Organizations

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pp. 13-28

Sony Pictures, in 2007, released the first film of the twenty-first century to employ the cultural practices of Black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) as an example of how the hip-hop generation negotiates college life, socioeconomic class, and cultural meanings. The film’s title, Stomp the Yard, presents one of ...

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2: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Ambiguity of Social Reform

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pp. 29-58

In 1997, four Black Greek-letter sororities—Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho—joined C. Delores Tucker, the chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women, in the Black Women’s Sojourner Truth Monument Crusade. Tucker and her supporters fought to ...

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3: Stepping into the African Diaspora Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Production of Sexuality and Femininity in Sorority Step Performance

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pp. 59-85

In a large auditorium, four groups of sorority women, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho, emerge from their seats to “walk,” otherwise known to BGLOs as step dancing in-line. In unison, each sorority performs its stylized, signature dance movement ...

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4: Disciplining Women, Respectable Pledges, and the Meaning of a Soror Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Transformation of the Pledge Process

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pp. 87-115

During a four-week period in the spring of 1991, the Epsilon Gamma Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority at Kent State University conducted an underground pledge process for new initiates, without permission from their national headquarters. Sorority members transported pledges by car ...

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5: Voices of Collectivity/Agents of Change Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Future of Black Counterpublics

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pp. 117-142

When 25,000 members of the AKA sorority gathered in Washington, D.C., for their Centennial Boul

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Conclusion: Sorority Sisters

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pp. 143-150

Author Tajuana “TJ” Butler is a fiction writer, poet, and activist and leads seminars on sisterhood and the cultivation of Black women’s self-esteem. She is also a member of the AKA sorority and has written several fiction books on the social lives of Black women, including ...

Appendix: Alpha Kappa Alpha Fact Sheet

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pp. 151-152


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pp. 153-175


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pp. 177-179


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pp. 181-200


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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432748
E-ISBN-10: 1438432747
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432731
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432739

Page Count: 218
Illustrations: 7 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1