When Margins Become Centered: Black Queer Women in Front and Outside of the Classroom

My co-authored piece with my colleague Shannon Nasah-Miller, When Margins Become Centered: Black Queer Women in Front and Outside of the Classroom is live in the Special Issue Institutional Feelings: Practicing Women’s Studies in the Corporate University of Feminist Formations.

Heres our abstract

This article revisits the authors’ experiences as Black queer women teaching undergraduates and receiving graduate education, ultimately reflecting on these from their current professorial positions. It explores how graduate teachers and junior faculty who are Black queer women navigate the process of creating and maintaining feminist pedagogy in the college classroom while simultaneously negotiating universities that have very little space for queer women, Black women, and those at these intersections. The article asserts that feminist classrooms are arenas for discovery, liberation, and resistance of hegemonic structures, and attempts to construct these spaces both in- and outside of women’s studies departments. This task is particularly challenging when the instructor holds the very marginalized identities that exist in the content of the class and their education. Ultimately, the article argues that their unique experience has been under-theorized, even by them, and necessitates specific strategies that would not be addressed by a focus on Black women who are assumed to be straight or queer women who are assumed to be white.

Read the full article here!

#transformDH Conference 2015: A Recap

I have the privilege of being in a really wonderful collaborative relationship with scholars I have long admired. It is this community of #transformDH led by the fabulous Alexis Lothian that convened and successfully executed the #transformDH Conference and THATCamp October 2-3, in Maryland.

We were able to talk about our experiences that led to the creation of the hashtag.

Watch live streaming video from transformdh2015 at livestream.com

We were also able to show the power of digital videos as important interventions into the archive. My favorite was 13 Lunas but they were all so powerful. In less than ten minutes each of these digital videos offered important interventions into business as usual, much like #transformDH. Whether it is the embedded assumption about what a family tree should look like or the white-washing of the future, these digital story tellers and hackers offered new ways of looking at old unexamined beliefs.

We spent  a lot of time unpacking ableism in storytelling and ableism in DH.

We also got to hear a fascinating Keynote from Lisa Nakamura about the ways that the labor of women of color in digital spaces is often overlooked.

Watch live streaming video from transformdh2015 at livestream.com

For more, Check out the Storifies from Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference.

#transform(ing)DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics

Hey All,

Its been a long time since Ive posted but I am reinvigorated by my participation in the #transformDH Conference at the University of Maryland this past weekend.

I mentioned the following article in my remarks this weekend.

#transform(ing)DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics

My research highlights the networks contemporary Black trans women create through the production of digital media and in this article I make the emotional and uncompensated labor of this community visible. I provide an added level of insight into my research process as a way to mirror the access I was granted by these collaborators. I use Digital Humanist Mark Sample’s concept of collaborative connections to demonstrate my own efforts to enact a transformative feminist process of writing and researching in the Digital Humanities (DH) while highlighting the ways in which the communities I follow are doing the same in their spheres of influence.

I’m Back!

What may seem like a long hiatus, has actually been filled with more productivity than can quite be captured in a blog post. Ive settled into my new(ish) position as a postdoctoral Fellow in Womens, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the NU Lab for Digital Humanities at Northeastern. I am having a fantastic time.

Ill be documenting my goings on via blog post to the NU Lab Website. Heres a link to my first entry. Enjoy!

NWSA Approved! Women’s Technolabor: Acts of Advocacy Online, in Media, and On Stage

This panel examines the technolabor of women in the US across multiple mediums.  By technolabor we mean, women’s work with digital and material technologies such as the electric guitar,  web-based platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, and online health forums and websites like WebMD and Our Bodies, Our Blog.  These three papers emerge at the crossroads of technology, identity, agency,  and representation.  They analyze real-time transgressive tools, actions, and effects that are generating new, incisive and inclusive capacities for producing knowledge. At the core of our research are issues of identity, self-definition and just representation.  This panel uses interdisciplinary and intersectional frameworks as seen in the work of Jayna Brown and the late Jose Munoz, to contextualize these diverse groups within the category women.  Presenters also engage feminist scholars of epistemology and the politics and labor of knowledge-production such as Patricia Hill-Collins. Each paper considers how women actively work to transform the social barriers that contribute to distorted views of themselves within popular culture and public discourse. The women we highlight in our work challenge hegemonic representations through alternative knowledge production as a form of self advocacy. Our work is a reflection of ongoing debates around the limits and possibilities of gendered knowledge, particularly women’s knowledge in the service of building a more equitable world.

Politics, Homophobia, and Resistance Oh My!

Yesterday, three pieces I wrote or contributed to all showed up in my inbox within minutes of each other. They range from discussions in hip hop culture to participatory politics as resistance. See more below.

Participations: Dialogues on the Participatory Promise of Contemporary Culture and Politics Part 3: POLITICS

Your questions have me thinking about digital literacy and the assumptions people make about who has access to the Internet and what kinds of access they have. A lot more people of color access the Internet
through their cell phones, which can limit the types of digital platforms that are available to them. It impacts both people’s ability to participate at all and the types of digital participation that are possible. To echo Alexis, “deep and sustained analysis of the uneven ground on which participation takes place is also necessary.” I think part of this work is taking place on this thread.

Contextualizing Lord Jamar, Le1f, and hip hops homophobic history

Assimilation into the ruling class does not undo the structures that oppress people. For me, gay marriage is a distraction from issues that unite queer people with other marginalized folks. Dealing with the way that homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, impact education, health care, housing, and employment would be a more useful endeavor than symbolic songs like “Same Love.” Marriage is an institution that affords people all kinds of benefits in our country and for me, the question is why those benefits are only available through this one act; why can’t everybody just have what they need, regardless of whether they are married or not?

New Terms of Resistance: A Response to Zenzele Isoke

Zenzele Isoke’s “’Why Am I Black?’ Women, Hip Hop, and Cultural Resistance in Dubai,” explores the ways that eight Black women in Dubai use their engagement within global hip hop culture to resist gender oppression in their own lives. Isoke’s interviews provide a window into the transformative power of music and what Patricia Hill Collins calls transversal politics that identify two similarly phenomena from different locations that can be discussed in tandem. I find this theoretical framework’s deployment refreshing as it attempts to add to our toolbox and give intersectionality a break from doing a lot of the heavy lifting for Black feminist thought. In my own work I too am interested in identifying new logics that provide more specificity in the ways we engage our scholarship.

ASA Approved! Octavia Butler’s Wild Seeds: An Acorn Community Gathering

Sepia toned picture of Octavia Butler overlayed with her quote "All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you."

Join Ayana Jamieson, adrienne maree brown, Walidah Imarisha, and me at the American Studies Association Conference in LA November 6-9 for Octavia Butler’s Wild Seeds: An Acorn Community Gathering!

As members of the Octavia Butler Legacy Network, we invite ASA participants to an Acorn community gathering and invocation in the spirit of Afrofuturist, MacArthur “Genius” Award winning author Octavia Butler’s visionary fiction. We are interested in creating a dynamic space for artists, activists, and academics that honor her legacy by shaping Change toward the alternate realities they wish to see.This session will be a participatory, pleasurable sensory experience as we undo the restrictive and often unproductive model of the traditional scholarly paper. Participants will be invited to engage in a voice-and-body centered strategy session that draws on the pleasure derived from holistic, intertextual readings of Butler’s fiction. Vehicles for desired relationships, chosen families, and interdependent communities are embedded in all of her work requiring symbiotic, radical engagements with the Sacred/Monstrous Other and a reevaluation of our own boundaries. Pleasure often transcends and disrupts the controlling images and rigid ways of being that exist in our world in favor of worlds that we can inhabit for fully whole. As an interdisciplinary incubator, this session invites those interested in exploring the pleasure and passion which drives their scholarship, activism, art, and cultural work in community with others while thinking through the ways in which Butler’s fiction provides opportunities to explore more embodied relationships to ourselves.

Homolatent Masculinity and Hip Hop Culture

Chris Long and I before taping an episode of Digital Dialogue.

Chris Long and I before taping an episode of Digital Dialogue.

My article from the Queerness of Hip Hop Conference at Harvard is live! Message me if you want to read it but cant because it isnt open access. Thanks to conference organizers and guest editors Scott Poulson-Bryant and C. Riley Snorton for encouraging me to write it up!

I was also fortunate to be a featured guest on Chris Longs podcast Digital Dialogue, where I discuss the article in depth. Take a listen here.

Audre Lorde tells us that naming is important. When she introduced herself as a “Black lesbian feminist mother warrior poet,” she was deliberately situating herself and her perspective in a context of co-constitutive identities. Nikki Finney says, “Repetition is holy.” Lorde’s continual refrain of her many identities became an incantation of protection in all the spaces she entered, grounding her and signaling to others who she was.

I identify as queer. When I call myself queer I do so with similar intention. My favorite definition of queerness comes from the ‘zine Towards the Queerest Insurrection :

[Q]ueer is not a stable area to inhabit. Queer is not merely another identity that can be tacked onto a list of neat social categories, nor the quantitative sum of our identities. Rather, it is the qualitative position of opposition to presentations of stability—an identity that problematizes the manageable limits of identity. Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized, and oppressed. Queer is the abnormal, the strange, the dangerous. Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.

It is this definition that motivates my consideration of who and what gets placed under the umbrella of queerness. I am concerned about the way queer is deployed in relation to hip hop because patriarchy, misogyny, capitalism, and other forms of kyriarchy often remain key ingredients in the lyrical production of artists purportedly queering the genre. I want to be deliberate in identifying phenomena that we see in hip hop that trouble our notions of what is imagined as the project of straightness, but also remain critical about the attachment of queer or queerness to that behavior.

In wanting to name the particular homosocial behavior of black men in American (U.S.) hip hop culture, I offer the term homolatent : “homo” to foreground the same gender orientation of the behavior and “latent” to foreshadow the “pathological” potential of queer desire’s rupture into the real. Additionally, afrofuturist Octavia Butler’s Patternist book series hosts characters with supernatural powers that are activated through a painful transition process. For those who are unable to transition successfully, their “latent” powers manifest as a penchant for violence and nihilistic destruction waged on those closest to them. The violent nature of homolatent interactions sets it apart from traditional nomenclature used to describe same-sex attraction. Unlike “queer,” “homosexual,” or “same gender loving,” homolatent attempts to address the abjection of desire.

More here.

Bodies on Screen: Feminist Health Science Studies in Trans* and Queer of Color Digital Media

I am excited to be heading to the National Women’s Studies Association Conference tomorrow to present my paper, Bodies on Screen: Feminist Health Science Studies in Trans* and Queer of Color Digital Media. Ill be be joined by Emory University colleagues on our panel titled, Screening the Body:” New Directions for Feminist Health Scholarship and Activism Through Engaging Popular Media.

Check out our panel blurb and the blurb for my paper below. We are on for Saturday Evening, Nov. 9, 5:25-6:40 PM in the Duke Energy Convention Center, 204-AV. Join us! There will be pizza!

This panel borrows its title from a book of the same name by Lisa Cartwright (1995). The panel explores relationships between medicine, media and representations of the health care needs and histories of queer communities of color and women in the US. It also privileges the interrogation of popular representations of marginalized groups as the bodies of knowledge production in commercial biomedical discourse. Moya Bailey’s examination of the health promotion practices of queer people of color moves beyond mainstream media and engages alternative medium to challenge the narrowness of dominant health media and create community authored representations. Rachel Dudley explores the counter narratives of contemporary performance art that acknowledge the history of women of color in western biomedical innovation and that challenge mainstream celebrations of J. Marion Sims, the early gynecologist who honed his craft on enslaved women in the southern US. Sheri Davis-Faulkner introduces a new framework for media analysis that responds to mainstream health marketing by privileging black girls’ bodies and their corresponding narratives. Engaging the conference theme of body politics, this panel asks what kinds of new knowledges and critical disruptions are possible when we pivot our methodological and analytical frameworks and center marginalized communities.

My paper explores how marginalized groups use existing social media platforms to create new and alternate representations of themselves as a practice of health promotion, self-care, and wellness. These activities include trans* people of color creating YouTube videos of their transitions, masculine of center people creating their own health zine, and Black women using social media to organize for reproductive justice. Central to this activism are images that challenge mainstream depictions of marginalized groups. My scholarship explores the ways that controlling images and language impact the collective survival and health of people who are multiply marginalized.