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The Queer Limit of Black Memory

Black Lesbian Literature and Irresolution

Matt Richardson

Publication Year: 2013

The Queer Limit of Black Memory: Black Lesbian Literature and Irresolution identifies a new archive of Black women’s literature that has heretofore been on the margins of literary scholarship and African diaspora cultural criticism. It argues that Black lesbian texts celebrate both the strategies of resistance used by queer Black subjects and the spaces for grieving the loss of queer Black subjects that dominant histories of the African diasporas often forget. Matt Richardson has gathered an understudied archive of texts by LaShonda Barnett, S. Diane Adamz-Bogus, Dionne Brand, Sharon Bridgforth, Laurinda D. Brown, Jewelle Gomez, Jackie Kay, and Cherry Muhanji in order to relocate the queerness of Black diasporic vernacular traditions, including drag or gender performance, blues, jazz, and West African spiritual and religious practices. Richardson argues that the vernacular includes queer epistemologies, or methods for accessing and exploring the realities of Black queer experience that other alternative archives and spaces of commemoration do not explore. The Queer Limit of Black Memory brings together several theorists whose work is vital within Black studies—Fred Moten, Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, Frantz Fanon, and Orlando Patterson—in service of queer readings of Black subjectivity.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Black Performance and Cultural Criticism


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book has taken years to complete and a village of support, including the financial support of the University of California, Santa Barbara Dissertation Fellowship in the Department of Feminist Studies, University of California Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship, ...

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Introduction: Listening to the Archives: Black Lesbian Literature and Queer Memory

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pp. 1-20

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is a recent structure that has emerged as a monument to Black memory. Opened in San Francisco in December of 2005, the museum is literally positioned between archives. Located near Union Square, the museum stands across the street from the California Historical Society, ...

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Chapter 1. Desirous Mistresses and Unruly Slaves: Neo-Slave Narratives, Property, Power, and Desire

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pp. 21-56

Slavery is the African American “primal scene.”1. It is the condition in which the memory of an African presence in the Americas is born. True to the Freudian context of the term, it is under these circumstances that Black sexuality in the Americas is first constituted, creating the enduring memory of sexual subjugation. ...

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Chapter 2. Small Movements: Queer Blues Epistemologies in Cherry Muhanji’s Her

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pp. 57-82

In the above excerpt from Cherry Muhanji’s 1990 novel Her, a gay male pimp, Monkey Dee, turns his attention to Kali—by day a wife and mother, by night a cross-dressing “gay boy.” Monkey Dee encounters Kali in Chesterfields, the local gay bar where performers sing the blues, a range of sexualities reign, and gender fluidity is the norm. ...

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Chapter 3. “Mens Womens Some that is Both Some That is Neither”: Spiritual Epistemology and Queering the Black Rural South in the Work of Sharon Bridgforth

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pp. 83-106

The opening lines of Sharon Bridgforth’s 1999 performance novel love conjure/blues begins with an invitation to reremember African American southern ancestors from the early twentieth century.1 In Bridgforth’s work, the South is a locus of Black queer life and the birthplace of Black queer identities and desires. ...

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Chapter 4. “Make It Up and Trace It Back”: Remembering Black Trans Subjectivity in Jackie Kay’s Trumpet

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pp. 107-135

When Jackie Kay’s first novel, Trumpet (1998), opens, Joss Moody—a Black transman born in Scotland of a white mother and an African father—is already dead. His story is told through the remembrances of his wife, Millie, and their adopted son, Colman, as well as others who had contact with him during and even after his life. ...

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Chapter 5. What Grace Was: Erotic Epistemologies and Diasporic Belonging in Dionne Brand’s In Another Place, Not Here

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pp. 136-158

This book began with an examination of pleasure in Black lesbian neo-slave narratives as an imagined strategy of resistance for enslaved women. In order to imagine pleasure in the torment of slavery, the authors created irresolute, “undead” characters to navigate the incongruous terrain of social death, suffering, and momentary satisfaction. ...

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Epilogue: Grieving the Queer: Anti-Black Violence and Black Collective Memory

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pp. 159-168

In the opening of this volume I shared my desire for a resonance of queerness in Black memory that I sought on the metaphorical face of Africa as represented on the walls of the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. This text ends as it began: with the ancestors, through an examination of the registry of the dead. ...


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pp. 169-198


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pp. 199-204

Back Cover

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p. 217-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270172
E-ISBN-10: 0814270174
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212226
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212220

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Black Performance and Cultural Criticism