Emerald Rutledge turns in first I.S. of the year

Ellie Kahn
Contributing Writer

Emerald Rutledge’s ’17 turned in her 92 page Independent Study on the first day of second semester classes, making her the first member of the Class of 2017 to do so and earning herself the coveted first button. Rutledge, who began her I.S. project with the goal of finishing first in mind, attributes much of this success to Dr. Forbes, Gillian Lee from the Writing Center and her research mentor from Brown University.

In her thesis, Rutledge focused on the politics of Beyoncé Knowles ‘s music. Whether you consider yourself a highly devoted fan or not, few can argue with the statement that Beyoncé is perhaps the most influential and successful artist in the current music industry.

This is not only due to her soulful voice and meaningful lyrics. Beyoncé also uses her music as a way of communicating important political, and at times controversial, messages to her audience about race, tolerance, oppression and gender.

Rutledge, a senior at the College originally from Atlanta, explored concepts such as these and more in her Independent Study project, which is titled “Black Women’s Bodies and The Restoration of Glory: Understanding Beyoncé’s Lemonade as Political Resistance.”

In her project, Rutledge argues that Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade “can be seen as political resistance because she uses this medium to provide the space for Black women to re-define themselves in opposition to the stereotypes and monolithic narratives that have been perpetuated about them historically.”

As an Africana Studies major, Rutledge became interested in the liberation of Black women throughout history; this interest became more concrete when her advisor, Dr. Michael Forbes, pushed her to connect those ideas with Beyoncé’s role as a Black female artist, ultimately creating the framework for her Independent Study project. Rutledge’s project was developed further when she spent this past summer conducting research at Brown University, working with a mentor.

“To support my argument, I primarily analyze visual aesthetics from the [music] videos for ‘Hold Up,’ ‘Sorry’ and ‘Formation.’ I also analyze some of the lyrics from these songs and reference the poem written by Warsan Shire that prefaces ‘Hold Up’ to aid in my reading of certain aesthetics in the video,” said Rutledge.

Rutledge concludes that overall, Beyoncé “incorporates and embodies significant components of African religious and cultural practices, like the orisha Osun of the Yoruba religion, to create a lens through which Black women could create new recognitions and understandings of themselves.”

After graduation, Rutledge will either attend the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, or she will take part in a Ph.D program with a similar focus.

Either way, Rutledge will continue researching how Black artists provide liberation within their work, both for their audience members and for themselves, as well as how music can be seen as an important and necessary form of political activism.