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Duke Symposium to Explore Impact of ‘Scandal’ TV Producer Shonda Rhimes

The event includes a watch party Thursday evening of the ABC primetime lineup

The popular television shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” that comprise ABC’s Thursday night primetime viewing have become “must-see TV” for millions of Americans. All were produced by black screenwriter Shonda Rhimes. A Duke symposium, Jan. 29-30, will explore Rhimes’ impact on mainstream television through her inclusion of richly drawn, complex black female characters such as Olivia Pope. Pope, played by actress Kerry Washington, is the first black female lead of a primetime drama since the mid-1970s. “ShondaLand, the Symposium,” named for Rhimes’ production company, will bring together female scholars in the fields of history, women’s studies, law, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, black diaspora studies and media studies to explore the implications of Rhimes’ work.The event begins with a 7:30 p.m. reception and 8 p.m. season premiere watch party of all three ABC shows on Thursday, Jan. 29, at Durham’s Full Frame Theater on the American Tobacco Campus (320 Blackwell St.). The event, as well as parking, is free and open to the public. The symposium continues the following day at the Forum for Scholars & Publics (011 Old Chemistry building) on Duke’s West campus. A 9:30–11:30 a.m. panel discussion, “I Woke Up Like This: Desire & Respectability in ShondaLand,” will address black women and desire, and how respectability might stifle sexuality. A second panel, from noon to 2 p.m., “You Gotta Testify Because the Booty Don’t Lie: The (Il)Legality of Black Womanhood,” will examine the ways black women’s bodies are, and are not, protected by the law and how women, in the context of ShondaLand, might be emboldened to challenge the status quo.  The symposium, which will be streamed live, is co-sponsored by the Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship, and the Durham County Library.For more information, visit the Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics website.