Women’s Studies

Celebrating International Women’s Day

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Today is International Women’s Day, a day to recognize the achievements of women globally. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter: building a more gender-balanced world. We’re excited to share recent books and journals from Duke University Press that align with this mission and celebrate women around the world and throughout history.

Black Feminism Reimagined

In Black Feminism Reimagined Jennifer C. Nash reframes black feminism’s engagement with intersectionality, contending that black feminists should let go of their possession and policing of the concept in order to better unleash black feminist theory’s visionary and world-making possibilities.

The contributors to Seeking Rights from the Left, edited by Elisabeth Jay Friedman, evaluate the impact of the Latin American “Pink Tide” of left-leaning governments (2000-2015) on feminist, women’s, and LGBT movements and issues.

Second World, Second SexKristen Ghodsee recuperates the lost history of feminist activism in Second World, Second Sex by showing how women from state socialist Bulgaria and socialist-leaning Zambia created networks and alliances that challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement.

A Primer for Teaching Women, Gender, and Sexuality in World History by Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks and Urmi Engineer Willoughby is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching women, gender, and sexuality history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate the subject into their world history classes.

The contributors to Spirit on the Move, edited by Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth A. Pritchard, examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community, access to power, and way to challenge social inequalities. Spirit on the Move will be out in April.

Vexy ThingIn Vexy Thing Imani Perry recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present.

Drawing on numerous examples from popular culture, Sarah Banet-Weiser examines the relationship between popular feminism and popular misogyny in her book, Empowered, as it plays out in advertising, online and multi-media platforms, and nonprofit and commercial campaigns, showing how feminism is often met with a backlash of harassment, assault, and institutional neglect.

You may also be interested in these journals in feminist and women’s studies:

MER_17_2_coverimageMeridians, an interdisciplinary feminist journal, features scholarship and creative work by and about women of color in U.S. and international contexts. It engages the complexity of debates around feminism, race, and transnationalism in a dialogue across ethnic, national, and disciplinary boundaries.

differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies highlights interdisciplinary, theoretical debates that address the ways concepts and categories of difference—notably but not exclusively gender—operate within culture. It first appeared in 1989 at the moment of a critical encounter—a head-on collision, one might say—of theories of difference (primarily Continental) and the politics of diversity (primarily American).

MEW_15_1_coverimageThe Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Camera Obscura provides a forum for scholarship and debate on feminism, culture, and media studies. It explores areas such as the conjunctions of gender, race, class, and sexuality with audiovisual culture; new histories and theories of film, television, video, and digital media; and politically engaged approaches to a range of media practices.

 

Remembering Carolee Schneemann

We are sorry to learn of the death of feminist artist Carolee Schneemann, best known for her performance pieces Meat Joy and Interior Scroll. Several of our books feature or engage with Schneemann’s innovative and influential work.

978-0-8223-4511-4_prIn 2010 we published Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle, edited by Duke University Professor of Art Kristine Stiles. The book collects correspondence between Schneemann and those she called “her tribe,” including composer James Tenney, the filmmaker Stan Brakhage, the artist Dick Higgins, the dancer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, the poet Clayton Eshleman, and the psychiatrist Joseph Berke.

Our 2000 book M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism features an interview with Schneemann by Aviva Rahmani. In the interview, about the censorship of her work, Shneemann says, “My work within erotic and political taboos has been fueled by the constraints of sexism, but my work has offended both men and women, and been defended by both women and men; my work has offended granting agencies and institutions, and been supported by granting agencies and institutions. I like the margins to slip on . . . the uncertainty. From the margins I’ve been free to attack, to sniff out the leaking repressions and denial of subordination.”

The 2007 collection Women’s Experimental Cinema contains an article by M.M. Serra and Kathryn Ramey entitled “Eye/Body: The Cinematic Paintings of Carolee Schneemann,” which begins with a quote from Schneemann: “I’m still a painter and I will always be in essence a painter. . . . Painting doesn’t have to mean that you’re holding a brush in your hand. It might or it might not. It might be a camera. It might be a microphone. It might be your own body that when you go inside the frame and when you adjust your focus you see that the materiality of what you’re working with might include yourself in a force
field.” The authors analyze Schneeman’s use of her own body in her art. They conclude, “Carolee Schneemann persistently enacts the ‘eye/body,’ the seeing, active artist agent and continues to make work that challenges convention and expands our understanding of what painting, performance, and film are or can be.”

Kristine Stiles says, “Carolee Schneemann’s legacy will remain vibrant in her consummately original work. It was a privilege to be her friend for some forty years, however tumultuous. I will miss our regular Sunday telephone calls, her brilliant mind, lively sense of humor, and intrepid devotion to art.”  We join Stiles in mourning this important artist.

New Books in March

Spring brings a fresh crop of new books. Check out what’s new in March.

The Politics of Operations, edited by Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, investigates how capital reshapes its relation with politics, showing how contemporary capitalism operates through the extraction of mineral resources, data, and cultures; the logistical organization of relations between people, property, and objects; and the penetration of financialization into all realms of economic life.

Zorach cover with border low resIn Art for People’s Sake Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how its artistic innovations, institution building, and community engagement helped the residents of Chicago’s South and West Sides respond to social, political, and economic marginalization.

Drawing on previously unexamined archives, the contributors to The Revolution from Within, edited by Michael Bustamante and Jessica Lambe, examine the Cuban Revolution from a Cuba-centric perspective by foregrounding the experience of everyday Cubans in analyses of topics ranging from agrarian reform and fashion to dance and the Mariel Boatlift.

978-1-4780-0380-9.jpgIn Hush Mack Hagood outlines how noise-cancelling headphones, tinnitus maskers, white noise machines, nature-sound mobile apps, and other forms of media give users the ability to create sonic safe spaces for themselves, showing how the desire to block certain sounds are informed by ideologies of race, gender, and class.

In Thought Crime Max Ward explores the Japanese state’s efforts to suppress political radicalism in the 1920s and 1930s through the enforcement of what it called thought crime, providing a window into understanding how modern states develop ideological apparatuses to subject their respective populations.

In Breaking Bad and Cinematic Television, Angelo Restivo uses the innovative show Breaking Bad as a point of departure for theorizing a new aesthetics of television in which the concept of the cinematic points to the ways in which television can change the ways viewers relate to and interact with the world.978-1-4780-0092-1.jpg

Examining the work of writers and artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and Allan deSouza, in The Difference Aesthetics Makes Kandice Chuh advocates for what she calls “illiberal humanism” as a way to counter the Eurocentric liberal humanism that perpetuates structures of social inequality.

In Surrogate Humanity Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system that is entrenched in and reinforces racial capitalism and patriarchy.

In The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery Alys Eve Weinbaum investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary capitalism, showing how black feminist thought offers the best means through which to understand the myriad ways slavery continues to haunt the present.

Eliza Steinbock’s Shimmering Images traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change, thereby opening up new means to understand transgender ontologies and epistemologies.

978-1-4780-0091-4.jpgGökçe Günel’s Spaceship in the Desert examines the development and construction of Masdar City, a zero-carbon city built by Abu Dhabi that houses a research institute for renewable energy which implemented a series of green technologies and infrastructures as a way to deal with climate change and prepare for a post-oil future.

In Developments in Russian Politics 9 an international team of experts provide a comprehensive and critical discussion of the country’s most recent developments, offering substantive coverage of the key areas in domestic and foreign Russian politics, perfect for courses on Russia today.

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Intersectional Before It Was Cool: A Guest Post by Kristen Ghodsee

Kristen Ghodsee 2017 BW (1)Today’s guest post is by Kristen Ghodsee, author, most recently, of Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War, out this month.

Four years before Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s seminal 1989 paper, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” African women were fighting to have a discussion of apartheid included on the program of the United Nations Third World Conference on Women to be held in Nairobi in the summer of 1985. Ever since the First World Conference on Women held in Mexico City a decade earlier, liberal feminists from the United States had insisted that a women’s conference should only discuss the status of women. Other topics not relevant to the promotion of gender equality, they argued, should be discussed (by the men) in the General Assembly. In response, women from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, together with their allies from the state socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Cuba, protested that a women’s conference should allow women the chance to speak about all global concerns, regardless of whether they were specifically “women’s issues.”

For their part, the Americans in the official delegation considered the discussion of topics like apartheid or the need for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) an unnecessary “politicization” of the meetings. Directives from the Department of State and the U.S. House of Representatives admonished the official American delegates to the women’s conferences to narrowly focus on “women’s issues.” In response, the women of the Second and Third Worlds argued that you could not separate “women’s issues” from issues of racism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. What was the point, the African women asked, of discussing women’s rights in South Africa when the category of “woman” was so obviously divided by race? What was the point, the East European women queried, of discussing women’s rights in societies divided into classes of oppressors and oppressed?

978-1-4780-0181-2Although they did not have a name for their shared perspective, those women in the Global South and the state socialist East who believed that you could not discuss the issues of gender independently from issues of race and class were in fact promoting a kind of proto-intersectionality, one fiercely resisted by representatives from the First World countries. In Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity During the Cold War, I trace the important alliances between socialist and socialist-leaning women in Bulgaria and Zambia and their impacts on the shape of the global women’s movement during the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) and the subsequent United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985). I argue that the story of the international coalition of women who advocated for stronger states and larger social safety nets (supported by the public ownership of industry) is one that has been erased by the Western feminist historiography of this era. This political solidarity of non-Western women provided an important challenge to liberal feminism on the world stage, and in many respects, the Cold War competition between the West and the East/South over which economic system could best promote women’s rights proved an important catalyst for rapid social progress.

In her intellectual history of women and the United Nations, the Indian economist Devaki Jain lamented the loss of the Cold War context because with its demise she believed that women of the Global South lost their ability to forge paths independent of Western economic and political hegemony: “The fading out of the Cold War . . . removed a vital political umbrella that had sheltered the women of the South, given them a legitimacy to stake a claim for justice as part of the movements to address domination” (Jain 84). Jain clearly acknowledged the important role of the solidarity between women the state socialist East and women from the Global South: “The Socialist bloc had supported approaches that required a strong state, a thrust toward public provision of basic services, and a more equitable global economic program such as the New International Economic Order. It was often an ally of the newly liberated states as they attempted to forge coalitions . . . to negotiate with their former colonial masters” (Jain 103). The liberal feminists in the United States and Western Europe had access to financial resources that far exceeded those of the women’s activists in the rest of the world, but I argue that the rest of the world’s women forged coalitions that gave them strength in numbers.

Although there is no doubt that larger geopolitical concerns informed these ongoing relationships (the Eastern Bloc countries were always trying to score moral points against the United States and its allies), I argue that the women affiliated with this global leftist women’s movement truly believed in the idea of proto-intersectionality and that issues of gender equality could not (and should not) ever be separated from the larger political contexts within which women lived. The records of the debates at the United Nations as well as countless international publications produced and circulated during the International Women’s Year and the International Women’s Decade clearly show us today that non-Western socialist women were intersectional ­­– before it was cool.

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is the author of five books with Duke University Press. You can save 30% on her most recent title, Second World, Second Sex, on our website using coupon code E19SWSS.

Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema

The most recent issue of Camera Obscura, “Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema,” edited by Hester Baer and Angelica Fenner, is now available.

cob_33_3_99_coverSince German unification, many of the gains achieved during the feminist film movement of the 1970s have been undone, not least as a result of the dismantling of redistributive funding policies in the face of the global free market. Yet the rise of the Berlin School, the development of production collectives fostering women’s filmmaking, and the Pro Quote Film movement promoting gender parity in the film industry through quotas make the time ripe for a reconsideration of the relations between aesthetic form and the material conditions of women’s filmmaking in Germany.

This special issue reframes the legacies of the feminist film movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the context of the resurgence of film feminism in the 2010s. Arguing that German cinema constitutes a key site for theorizing women’s film authorship and feminist film production today, contributors to the issue investigate the relationship between aesthetic form and the material conditions of women’s filmmaking in light of neoliberalism and post-feminism.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

You may also find these titles on international women’s cinema interesting.

Womens_Cinema_World_Cinema_coverWomen′s Cinema, World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms, edited by Patricia White, explores the dynamic intersection of feminism and film in the twenty-first century by highlighting the work of a new generation of women directors from around the world:  Samira and Hana Makhmalbaf, Nadine Labaki, Zero Chou, Jasmila Zbanic, and Claudia Llosa, among others. The emergence of a globalized network of film festivals has enabled these young directors to make and circulate films that are changing the aesthetics and politics of art house cinema and challenging feminist genealogies.

Sisters in the Life: A History of Out African American Lesbian Media-Making, edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz, tells a full story of African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades. In essays on filmmakers including Angela Robinson, Tina Mabry and Dee Rees; on the making of Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman(1996); and in interviews with Coquie Hughes, Pamela Jennings, and others, the contributors center the voices of black lesbian media makers while underscoring their artistic influence and reach as well as the communities that support them.

In The Battle of the Sexes in French Cinema, 1930–1956, by Noël Burch and Geneviève Sellier, adopt a sociocultural approach to films made in France before, during, and after World War II, paying particular attention to the Occupation years (1940–44). The authors contend that the films produced from the 1930s until 1956—when the state began to subsidize the movie industry, facilitating the emergence of an “auteur cinema”—are important, both as historical texts and as sources of entertainment. Citing more than 300 films and providing many in-depth interpretations, Burch and Sellier argue that films made in France between 1930 and 1956 created a national imaginary that equated masculinity with French identity.

African Feminisms

coverimageThe most recent special issue of Meridians, “African Feminisms: Cartographies for the Twenty-First Century,” edited by Alicia C. Decker and Gabeba Baderoon, is now available.

Read the full issue, freely available until March 5.

As the contributors to this issue show, African feminisms not only vary widely in form but also maintain vibrant and sometimes tense relations with one another around topics such as sexuality, national policies, and transnational solidarity. Such diversity and tensions, far from presenting a disadvantage, spur innovative and politically radical approaches in the field. The multiplicity of feminisms theorized in this issue help challenge patriarchal ideologies and structures both in Africa and beyond. “African Feminisms” includes poetry, memoir, interview, testimonio, and more, alongside essays on topics such as the framing of Nigerian girls as victims in need of saving, feminisms in African hip-hop, and sex worker advocacy groups in Africa.

Also check out these recent recent related titles:

An Intimate RebukeIn An Intimate Rebuke, an ethnography of female empowerment, Laura S. Grillo offers new perspectives on how elder West African women deploy an ancient ritual in which they dance naked and slap their genitals and bare breasts to protest abuses of state power, globalization, witchcraft, rape, and other social dangers.

In Rwandan Women Rising, Ambassador Swanee Hunt shares the stories of over ninety women, who in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, overcame unfathomable brutality, suffering, loss, and seemingly unending challenges to rebuild Rwandan society by addressing common problems ranging from health care, rape, and housing to poverty, education, and mental health.

Hershini Bhana Young engages with the archive of South African and black diasporic performance in Illegible Will to examine the absence of black women’s will from that archive, showing that alternative critical imaginings juxtaposed against traditional historical research can help to locate where agency and will may reside.

Call for Proposals: South Atlantic Quarterly

saq_117_4_cover1The South Atlantic Quarterly is accepting proposals for thematic special issues through January 31, 2019. Themes should be in line with those of journal issues published in recent years, including critical race studies, feminist and queer theory, analyses of contemporary capital and labor, social and liberation movements, critical theory, and environmental humanities. Funds are available to translate original essays not written in English.

Special issue editors are responsible for soliciting essays, working with authors, editing texts, and assuring that deadlines and word counts are met.

saq_117_3_coverProposals should include a description of the concept or theme that organizes the issue (roughly 200 words) plus names of potential authors with very brief bios. Please indicate whether authors have already been contacted. Please propose, too, a date by which the complete, edited collection can feasibly be submitted.

Issues are composed of 70,000 words total. This is often configured as eight 8,000 word essays plus an introduction, but editors are free to configure the number and length of essays differently.

Please send proposals to saq@dukeupress.edu.

National Women’s Studies Association, 2018

We enjoyed meeting authors and editors, selling books and journals, and celebrating prize-winning works at the 2018 National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia!

Amber Cary

DUP Digital Access and Journals Specialist Amber Cary

Congratulations to several of our authors who received awards at the conference:

Jasbir Puar’s book, The Right to Maim, was co-winner of the Alison Piepmeier Book Prize.

Attiya Ahmad’s book, Everyday Conversions, won the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies Book (AMEWS) Award.

Miglena S. Todorova’s article, “Race and Women of Color in Socialist/Postsocialist Transnational Feminisms in Central and Southeastern Europe,” won the Paula J. Giddings Best Essay Award. It was featured in a past issue of our new journal Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, an interdisciplinary feminist journal that publishes creative work by and about women of color in U.S. and international contexts, and is now available free for six months.

 

Together with editor Ginetta E. B. Candelario and managing editor Leslie Marie Aguilar, we celebrated our new publishing partnership with Meridians with a reception at our booth on Saturday.

There were also three “Author Meets the Critics” sessions featuring DUP authors Sami Schalk, Robyn Spencer, and Macarena Gómez-Barris.

It was a pleasure visiting with authors and editors at this wonderful conference!

Lynn Comella and Adan Martinez

Lynn Comella, author of Vibrator Nation, with her former student Adan Martinez.

 

Missed NWSA this year? Couldn’t fit all the books and journals you wanted into your suitcase? Don’t worry! You can still take advantage of the conference discount. Just use coupon code NWSA18 for 30% off your dukeupress.edu order at checkout.

Generations

The most recent issue of Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, “Generations,” edited by Frances S. Hasso, is now available.

MEW_14_3_coverThis special issue examines biological, political, and social reproduction and change at multiple scales. Contributors illustrate how intimate and political stories overlap, exploring themes such as biological reproduction, sexual health and agency, and motherhood. Recognizing that our understanding of past and present depends on who, how, and what we remember, this issue asks us to consider how feminist scholars generate knowledge and what we treat as an archive, especially given our frequent interest in nonarchival questions and subjects.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Q&A with Tamura Lomax, Author of Jezebel Unhinged

unnamedTamura Lomax is an independent scholar, the CEO and founder of The Feminist Wire, and author of Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture. We asked her a few questions about the new book, which Foreword has called “phenomenal,” “provocative,” and “an amazing pick for book clubs.”

What drew you to this topic? How did your own experience in the Black Church, including your background as a “preacher’s kid,” affect your research or approach?

The conundrum I experienced after moving from my childhood church and community in Syracuse, NY, a Black Church in a working-class black community, to Mill Valley, CA, a predominantly white and wealthy environment, at age fourteen, turned my world upside down. Privileged white teenagers have a way of making you hyperaware of your difference. And not only their belief in your purported racial difference but your supposed sexual and gender difference. I will never forget the stares, the comments, the whispers, the laughter, the jokes. I was a dark-skinned black girl from the east coast, and clearly, I was alien to them. Their obsession with me, particularly my blackness, gender, femininity, and sexuality, launched my critical consciousness into overdrive.

Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the day my new friends referred to me as a monkey who “crave[d] and provide[d] sex to anyone and anything.” While I had not yet read Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1967), this was indeed my first “Look, a Negro!” moment—the point of sudden objecthood, nonbeing, fixation, bursting apart, and being put back together—by another self. To be sure, I had known what it meant to be placed under the gaze of another. I knew the feeling of being misread, sexualized, and even lusted after as an adolescent. Unfortunately, I learned these lessons, first, through older and grown men—within my previous black community, the Black Church, and the music and culture that I loved: Hip Hop. As I write in the Prolegomenon, the hypersexualization of young black girls is fierce early on.

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My earliest memory is at age eleven when a church elder told my parents he could not focus during altar call because he was enraptured by my pubescent derriere (x-xi). Rather than calling out his rapey pedophilic wantonness, I was made to feel shame, as if my body had done something wrong without my consent. I struggled with the cultural psyche around black femininity and all of the sexual messaging, not to mention my own conflicting responses. On one hand, I loved raunchy Hip Hop music that admittedly sexually objectified black women and girls, while on the other, I detested the pedophilic stares of older men and boys in my church and community, and more, the racist and sexist gazing of my new high school friends in California. And as much as these gazes were the same, to me, they felt slightly different. That dreadful day in California changed the course of my life and how I saw the world and interpreted my place in it.

I did everything to change my high school friends’ reading of me—to the point of de-sexualization. I wanted to be a “proper” black girl—a lady in training, as I was taught to be at home and in the Black Church, not a libidinous monkey. This kind of sexualized marking, I had not known. I remember going home and journaling about the incident right after it happened. My eyes welled up with tears as I made my entry. This was not an innocent case of teasing and hurt feelings. As a young girl I was taught that sex before marriage was bad and that sexualization is the fault of so-called “fast” and promiscuous girls or women. Meaning that black girls or women are sexualized because they have acted in an allegedly sexually “loose” manner. I learned the latter was sin. And not only that, this was a transgression seemingly particular to black women and girls.

Full disclosure: I was in no way perfect. But I was a “good girl.” Or at least I tried to be. If I caught myself being “loose”—“fast tailed,” sexual, sexualized, or appreciating base music and lyrics more than a “good girl” should, I could at least fix that. I could take responsibility for where I went or what I did wrong and repent, therefore releasing myself from temptress status and gaining “good girl” prestige again. But not this day. I cried quiet painful tears because the sexualized savagery assigned to me—and black girls everywhere—by my high school friends could not be as quickly remedied. I was not merely hypersexualized but animalized—in harmony. Further, I was inherently problemed. I could neither disrobe of nor cover my blackness nor reencode my black femaleness. And I could neither pray it away nor bathe it in Black Church respectability as I had been taught. Rather, I was indelibly marked. Or, so I thought.

The rhetorical marking of these collective gazes—from the church to my new white friends to my favorite music and so on—made me feel psychically, emotionally, and communally estranged. And I was not alone. I learned later that each of these projections spring forth from essentialist discourses on black womanhood. And while they sometimes feel different, they have more in common than not. They are all overdetermining. And they all sting, just differently perhaps. I will never get over being called a monkey and thusly being situated outside of the human race. But neither will I ever come to terms with the hypersexualization that happens to young girls and women in black communities and the posturing of black female bodies and sexual decision-making in sin—as something needing constant fixing and redemption.

I am convinced it is because of such relentless stereotyping and signifying that black Americans in general are so religious, especially black women. Sin and shame have long taken up residence in our bodies and consequentially our minds. Jezebel Unhinged not only works within these tensions, it attempts to do the work of “undoing,” of naming anxieties, antagonisms, and social-cultural-structural-epistemic evils, and the significant psychic, emotional, and communal breaks they cause. It does this work through an iconoclastic critique of racism, sexism, heterosexism, the Black Church, and black popular culture. And I do so intentionally not as a theologian tasked with proving certain truths about God, but rather as a black feminist scholar of religion, or more precisely, a black feminist-religio-cultural theorist, interested in exploring how discourse, power, knowledge, meanings, language, and grammars get invested with truth claims about God, people, and cultures.

Still, I approached this study as one well aware of my personal and professional location—as one reared in the Black Church and as one who has experienced the collective function of antiblack and sexist re/presentational mythmaking, which affects not only persons but relations, social arrangements, ways of seeing, politics, institutions, and treatment, first hand—within and well beyond the Black Church. That said, I endeavored to do this critical work without “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” The latter is a mistake too many critics make, thus making their analyses irrelevant. (more…)