Tina Post, an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, recently received the Best Book Prize from the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. She was honored for her first book, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression (New York University Press, 2023).
Dr. Post contends that deadpan — dead is for inanimate, and pan is slang for face — is an investigation of the aesthetic effects at work at the intersection of Blackness and embodied expression. “This book motivated by questions about the phenomenon I see,” said Dr. Post. “I had not read satisfying explorations about expressionlessness and its intersection with Blackness.”
In Deadpan, Dr, Post compares Blackness to deadpan because both exist in the disputed territory between performance and interpretation. To be expressionless can be an advantage in social situations, especially for those with unequal power in society — the circumstances for many day-to-day experiences of Black Americans.
“The ASAP Best Book Award recognizes scholarship of profound originality in the study of aesthetics,” said Deborah L. Nelson, dean of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. “Tina Post’s Deadpan heightens the visibility of this category of expression by drawing on multiple artistic contexts across the 20th and 21st centuries. The play between visibility and withholding permeates Black culture and, by its influence, contemporary culture as a whole.”
Dr. Post is a graduate of Wells College in Aurora, New York, where she majored in English literature. She holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage, as well as two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in African American studies and American studies from Yale University,