Shayne Pepper, PhD

Monday saw the culmination of four years of hard CRDM work and the simultaneous realization of a lifetime of waiting for a single joke as Shayne Pepper successfully defended his dissertation this afternoon. He’s the second student this year and the sixth overall to do so.

Huh. I never noticed that before today.

Shayne’s presentation on his dissertation, “Public Service Entertainment: Post-Network Television, HBO, and the AIDS Epidemic,” was well received by the audience in attendance. According to his website, the project

examines HBO’s HIV/AIDS programming in order to make a larger argument about what public service television looks like in the modern neoliberal state. By studying the formative years of HBO through these HIV/AIDS programs, I am able to analyze a complex historical moment in which intensified neoliberal strategies and tactics of governance, a new industrial formation of the television industry, and an unprecedented biomedicial crisis converge. This dissertation argues that HBO stands at the center of these discursive formations and can open up new ways of thinking about all three.

Among the students in attendance was second-year CRDMer Lauren Clark, who said she learned a lot from Shayne’s presentation about a subject she thinks isn’t visible enough in public discourse:

There is very little work done on AIDS programming, as well as little work done on HBO programming aside from the last 15 years which is where scholars gravitate to work on the new, exciting shows that air. So Shayne’s project attempts to fill a gap in the research done on the history cable network versus public network shows, while simultaneously using HIV/AIDS programming to theorize the networks’ attempts to govern and control individual and group interaction with people who have AIDS.

The defense was well received by Shayne’s committee as well, judging by the outcome of the 2-hour meeting. Shayne worked under the direction of his chair and former CRDM program director, Jeremy Packer, and members James Hay (UIUC), Maria Pramaggiore, Sarah Sharma (UNC), and current program director Steve Wiley.

Shayne now prepares to take his many talents to Northeastern Illinois University as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Media, & Theater. His cheery disposition and ever-present headphones will be sorely missed around the CRDM office, as will his work ethic in making progress happen for our CRDM Student Association.

Congrats, Dr. Pepper!


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