Hegemony or concordance? The rhetoric of tokenism in "Oprah" Winfrey's rags-to-riches biography

Dana L. Cloud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


This article examines television and print biographies of television talk show host and producer Oprah Winfrey. Conventional biographical narratives construct a token "Oprah" persona whose life story resonates with and reinforces the ideology of the American Dream, implying the accessibility of this dream to black Americans despite the structural economic and political barriers posed in a racist society to achievement and survival. The article develops theories of tokenism, biography, autobiography, and hegemony to analyze both racial and gendered dimensions of tokenist biography. It describes tokenism as a rhetorical mechanism of liberal hegemony with regard to race and class. The essay challenges recent redefinitions of hegemony as happy "concordance" and suggests that critics cannot assume that black stars and texts automatically represent difference and resistance in popular culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-137
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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