Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design


Haynes, Cynthia

Committee Member

Skinner , Martha

Committee Member

Barczewski , Stephanie


This work looks at the trope of cuteness as a means of investigating the topological phenomena of race and public space, particularly in regards to African American rhetorical modes of visual and spatial practice. By introducing a sociological coinage known as the 'teddy-bear effect,' this work explores how racialized expressions of cuteness give off the impression of a demurring civility surrounding the social expectations associated with the cultural norms of gender and class. As a preferred characteristic of information design and strategically deployed for the tactic of racialized passings in the face of increasingly regulated forms of 'post-racial' gate-keeping and contemporary color politics, this research interrogates how racial cutification animates certain generational differences within African American communities while simultaneously shaping mainstream conceptualizations of what constitutes appropriate public decorum. Of specific concern is the cultural logic of 'minoritization' on people of color as far as the techno-spatial processes of race and racism for how it serves as a means by which global citizenship continues to be fashioned, especially in civic politics, black women's hair care and identity, social networking, and multimodal writing and pedagogy. Finally, this work asserts the ascendance of cuteness as a paradoxical sign of excess and miniaturization related to notions of multicultural authority and power and tracks the influence of this popularly imagined iconography of African Americanicity across the public sphere.