Black Intersectionalities

Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century

Monica Michlin
Jean-Paul Rocchi
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Black Intersectionalities
    Book Description:

    Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century explores the complex interrelationships between race, gender, and sex as these are conceptualised within contemporary thought. Markers of identity are too often isolated and presented as definitive, then examined and theorised, a process that further naturalises their absoluteness; thus socially generated constructs become socialising categories that assume coercive power. The resulting set of oppositions isolate and delimit: male or female, black or white, straight or gay. A new kind of intervention is needed, an intervention that recognises the validity of the researcher’s own self-reflexivity. Focusing on the way identity is both constructed and constructive, the collection examines the frameworks and practices that deny transgressive possibilities. It seeks to engage in a consciousness raising exercise that documents the damaging nature of assigned social positions and either/or identity constructions. It seeks to progress beyond the socially prescribed categories of race, gender and sex, recognising the need to combine intellectualization and feeling, rationality and affectivity, abstraction and emotion, consciousness and desire. It seeks to develop new types of transdisciplinary frameworks where subjective and political spaces can be universalized while remaining particular, leaving texts open so that identity remains imagined, plural, and continuously shifting. Such an approach restores the complexity of what it means to be human.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-090-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. 1 Introduction: Theorizing for Change: Intersections, Transdisciplinarity, and Black Lived Experience
    (pp. 1-20)
    Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi

    In the Spring of 2011, the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) placed the emphasis of its ninth international conference, “Black States of Desire: Dispossession, Circulation, Transformation,” which was held in Paris, on the conditions of social transformation in the black world.¹ It insisted on the intersection of a socioeconomic approach with a multicultural and identity-focused perspective; on the relation between theorizing processes and social transformation, between intellectual activity and political action; and on the cross-cutting relations between different communities with specific emancipatory agendas. The call for papers further explained that

    [i]n the wake of Lorde’s esthetical and political alliance...

  4. 2 Exordium: Writing and the Relation: From Textual Coloniality to South African Black Consciousness
    (pp. 21-34)
    Rozena Maart

    This chapter situates the subject of fiction, and the subject as writer of fiction, simultaneously. Between the two, a third emerges – the subject as critic – offering the reader a triple reading of a triple writing. It is a moment whereby to trace the trace, to trace the historical trajectory of a historical trajectory, requires that both the subject of the fiction and the subject as writer of fiction lay themselves bare on the page – reveal everything – and the critic binds and unwinds, untying the strings of history at different threads, unraveling the hidden, the forbidden, and the repressed that lie...

  5. I Challenging Hegemonic Gender Identities

    • 3 Postcolonial Backlash and Being Proper: Femininity, Blackness, Sexuality, and Transgender in the Public Eye
      (pp. 36-50)
      Antje Schuhmann

      From homophobic hate crimes and the reinforcing of dress codes for women in townships to the censorship of the arts in the name of “proper” femininity, culture, morality, and nation-building, the right to female self-determination is being challenged concretely in contemporary post-apartheid South Africa. Threats to the Constitution by Christian right-wingers working alongside members of the Government currently target the right to abortion and the right to same-sex marriage, and normative understandings of womanhood seem to be gaining ground in multiple ways (Schuhmann, 2009a). In this context, the spectacle around the questioning of athlete Caster Semenya’s sex after her outstanding...

    • 4 Productive Investments: Masculinities and Economies in Fisher’s The Walls of Jericho
      (pp. 51-67)
      Eva Boesenberg

      Rudolph Fisher’s 1928 novelThe Walls of Jerichoidentifies “black states of desire” as economic, socio-political, and sexual, championing the transfer of financial means and the mobilization of erotic energies beyond lines of class, heteronormativity, and “race” in order to effect meaningful social change. Its project to break down the “walls” of the title – be they between black and white neighborhoods, different class positions in the African American community, or emotional repression mandated by hegemonic gender discourses – situates the text within modernist economies no longer governed by the imperative to save both money and corporeal capital but rather, as Michael...

    • 5 “I Hugged Myself”: First-Person Narration as an Agential Act in Octavia Butler’s “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”
      (pp. 68-82)
      Florian Bast

      This study gives an introduction to the complex interrelation of agency and first-person narration in the works of Octavia Butler by way of the short story “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” (1987).¹ Butler’s diverse oeuvre utilizes narrative perspective as it conspicuously employs complex constructions of homodiegetic narrations: in its discussion of notions of identity, power, control, and freedom, it gives voice to, among others, a runaway in a dystopian future inSurvivor(1978), a black woman repeatedly forced to travel back to the times of slavery inKindred(1979), a human–alien hybrid of a third gender...

  6. II Nonconformity and Narrative Theorizing

    • 6 Benjamin Franklin’s Ethnic Drag – Notes on Abolition, Satire, and Affect
      (pp. 84-97)
      Carsten Junker

      In the English-speaking transatlantic sphere, all legal involvement in the slave trade was officially abandoned between 1807 (Great Britain) and 1808 (the United States);slaverywould eventually be abolished in the British Caribbean in 1833–34 and in the United States in 1865. The struggle to ban the trade in people of African origin and, by extension, their “thingification” (Césaire, 1950) was fought by many – by enslaved blacks and by white abolitionists – and it was fought in many different forms. Forms of resistance on the part of the enslaved ranged from survival tactics of fugitive slaves organizing in so-called maroon...

    • 7 “Weh eye nuh see heart nuh leap”: Claude McKay’s Literary Drag Performance in Banana Bottom
      (pp. 98-113)
      Jarrett H. Brown

      Caribbean and Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay locates his third novel,Banana Bottom(1933), in his native home, Jamaica. Set between the country town of Jubilee and the rural village of the same name,Banana Bottomexamines turn of the century Jamaican cultural and social value systems through its female protagonist Bita Plant and can be read as an autobiographical novel in which the protagonist Bita Plant is really McKay in drag. Where in life McKay could not return in actuality, he takes a literary journey through the body of his protagonist to repair his relationship with his father and...

    • 8 The Souls of Black Gay Folk: The Black Arts Movement and Melvin Dixon’s Revision of Du Boisian Double Consciousness in Vanishing Rooms
      (pp. 114-126)
      Charles Nero

      This chapter explores the influence and impact of the Black Arts Movement on the Black Gay Generation of 1986. The year 1986 refers to the publication of Joseph Beam’s pioneeringIn the Life: A Black Gay Anthology, the first collective expression of African American gay identity. That anthology was followed five years later by a sequel,Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, co-edited by Beam and Essex Hemphill. Together the two anthologies defined a generation of black gay writing. Some of the notable writers and culture workers in the two anthologies, in addition to Beam and Hemphill,...

  7. III Upsurges of Desire

    • 9 “Risking Sensuality”: Toni Morrison’s Erotics of Writing
      (pp. 128-144)
      Claudine Raynaud

      While past scholarship has explored at great length the inscription of the black body in Morrison’s work, recent analysis has focused on her “use of the erotic” – to take up Audre Lorde’s phrase (Turpin, 2010) – in an effort to locate her specific work with language in comparison and contrast with Audre Lorde and Dionne Brand. I wish to argue in this chapter that writing the erotic is what Morrison has been “risking” throughout her output sinceSula(1973) throughBeloved(1987) andJazz(1992), down toA Mercy(2008). The erotic is not a “theme,” a moment in the novels’...

    • 10 Cultures of Melancholia: Theorizing Desire and the Black Body
      (pp. 145-157)
      Laura Sarnelli

      The theoretical concept of melancholia has recently received heightened critical attention in the field of race and postcolonial studies. As an emotional reaction to the denial of the loss of a loved object, be it a person, a place, or an ideal, melancholia gives shape to a “constellation of affect” or a “structure of feeling” encompassing the individual and the collective, the psychic and the social (Eng and Kazanjian, 2003: 3). As such, it has emerged as a crucial touchstone for subjective as well as political formations. In particular, melancholia has been deployed to unravel the complex mechanisms of national...

    • 11 Richard Wright’s Poetics of Black Being: Metaphor, Desire, and Doing
      (pp. 158-176)
      Rebecka Rutledge Fisher

      In this chapter, I examine how Richard Wright, inThe Man Who Lived Underground(1944), puts into practice what Paul Ricoeur describes as metaphor’s knowledge of its relation to being.¹ The poetics I describe are evident not in this novella alone; they appear in many familiar works of African American literature throughout the modern period.² While this chapter cannot, of course, lay claim to a comprehensive study that presents an exhaustive overview of all the texts that constitute this literary tradition; my hope is that my analysis will suggest a theory of metaphor alive in Wright’s work, a theory that...

  8. IV Epistemological Genealogies and Prospections

    • 12 On the Monstrous Threat of Reasoned Black Desire
      (pp. 178-194)
      Lewis R. Gordon

      There is a problem in the pursuit of knowledge that is peculiarly evident in the experience of many black graduate students. On the one hand, the student is often excited by the opportunity to pursue questions in a discipline whose resources for the advancement of knowledge have intoxicated him or her with a quest that may best be described as afaithin possibility. On the other hand, such a student often encounters subtle and at times not-so-subtle snippets of challenges to his or her intelligence that, in a context in which reputation about one’s intelligence is paramount, is degrading....

    • 13 Revising Jezebel Politics: Toward a New Black Sexual Ethic
      (pp. 195-210)
      Jennifer S. Leath

      The failure of respectability and the incessant onslaught of cultural attacks againstallblack sexualities invite us to “crawl back” (Long, 1999: 9) through the lives of Jezebel, imagining adeviantfuture (Cohen, 2004), a “still unfolding” revolution (Walcott, 2006). A careful review of the mythological, historical, and biblical lives of “Jezebel” unearths the value of reappropriating Jezebel as a model for radical uses of the erotic. The queerness of her faith; the deviance of her sexuality; the bold pluralism of her politics: these are qualities that fill the interstices of hegemonichis-stories of Jezebel. While epistemological archeology will not...

    • 14 The Challenge of Black Feminist Desire: Abolish Property
      (pp. 211-224)
      Sabine Broeck

      The following chapter needs to be framed in explicit ways: it reads the theoretical advances of Black Feminism in the United States as an epistemic rupture for, and of, contemporary White Gender Theory. It is not an up-to-date exhaustive and inclusive report of recent Black Feminist activism and scholarship, particularly of the younger, post-Obama, internet-based textual and activist production, in its manifold academic and non-academic articulations. This restriction is due to the particular nature of my enterprise here: to produce a reckoning within the white African American and Gender Studies scholarship of my generation.

      For scholars and activists of the...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 225-230)
  10. Index
    (pp. 231-258)