The first Ph.D. dissertation exploring the significance of the incident involving Chris Rock and Will Smith at the 2022 Academy Awards was published yesterday by Oxford University Press. Written by Caleb Kurf, a doctoral student in Sociology at New York University, the dissertation argues that the Rock/Smith interaction represented not a conflict, but a fraternal bonding, between the two men.
Entitled “A Slap is NOT a Punch: Contextualizing the Resistance of the Black Elite to White Colonialism in the Film Industry,” the work shows that Smith’s use of his open hand to strike Rock signaled that the former was “reaching out in solidarity to a brother. Exposing one’s palm is a universal sign of vulnerability, not hostility or aggression. The subtext of the interaction was the long-suppressed outrage that both parties felt toward the negative reviews received by The Karate Kid, a 2010 remake starring Jaden Smith, Will’s son. The slap symbolized the abuse that Jaden had suffered at the hands of clueless movie critics.”
“We fast-tracked Caleb’s dissertation for approval, given the importance of the subject matter,” says NYU Sociology Department Chair Wendell Levitt-Nissan. “He researched and wrote his analysis on Sunday night following the Awards broadcast, and defended the dissertation before a faculty committee on Tuesday afternoon. He signed a contract with Oxford University Press on Tuesday night, and a monograph based on the work was published on Thursday. A book signing will be held at the 82nd and Broadway location of Barnes & Noble in Manhattan on Saturday from 1 to 3 pm. Kendrick Lamar will perform ‘Jaden’s Song,’ his latest release, at 2:30. The after-party will be held from 4 to 7 at the home of Bill de Blasio, former mayor of New York City.”