camra – Sweet Tea

In association with camra and collaborating curator Arjun Shankar, Ethnographic Terminalia presents:


Sweet Tea


Sweet Tea, a feature-length experimental/ethnographic documentary, will follow the personal and scholarly trajectory of researcher and activist E. Patrick Johnson. Johnson (the first Black man from his small town of Hickory, North Carolina, to earn a PhD) uses social scientific and humanistic methods to examine questions of identity and community in contemporary society. As someone who has documented his own coming-out story, Johnson also seeks to understand the many different experiences of Black gay men from the South and to share their stories with audiences through both scholarly and artistic means. Most recently, he has transformed his extensive ethnographic life history interviews with gay Black Southerners into a one-man theatrical show, Sweet Tea. This ethnographic film (of the same name) will combine footage from the rehearsal and production of that show with documentary moments from the lives of both Johnson and his interview participants, depicting both his research process and the complexities of his relationships with the men in his study. The film, much like Johnson’s work itself, attempts to transcend conventional assumptions about what counts as “scholarship”—and to reimagine how such scholarship can/should be shared. How do we represent portions of other people’s life stories? How do those stories impact us as researchers and viewers? What does it even mean to blur the boundaries between art and science, scholarship and activism, and what’s to be gained from doing so? Sweet Tea, the film, attempts to place these interconnected themes and questions in critical and creative conversation.


Nora Gross is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania in Education and Sociology. Her ethnographic research focuses on the relationship between adolescents’ gender, racial, and academic identities. She has an MA in Sociology of Education and a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies.

John L. Jackson, Jr., is Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. He also is the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication, Africana Studies, and Anthropology. Dr. Jackson’s research examines racial and class-based differences in contemporary urban environments, including a focus on how urbanites themselves theorize and deploy those differences in everyday interactions.

Patrick Johnson is the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University. A scholar/artist, Johnson performs nationally and internationally and has published widely in the areas of race, gender, sexuality and performance.