Special Issue "Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 July 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Tara T. Green
Website
Guest Editor
African American and African Diaspora Studies Program,The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412, USA
Interests: Black gender studies; African American autobiographies and fiction the African diaspora in the U.S; African American parent-child relationships, and African Americans in the South

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In a 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education article, Stacy Patton addressed the silence surrounding the subject of black sexuality as a tenant of Black Studies. Pointing to a rise of scholars in “queer studies, women’s studies, anthropology, African-American Studies, sociology, literature, history, public health” who have dared to break that silence and expand scholarly studies in the lives and work of Black folks, Patton concluded: “It gets into the bedroom with heterosexual black men having sex with other men ‘on the down low’; onto the streets and porn sets with cross-dressers, transsexuals, and black sex workers; behind prison bars with gay and lesbian inmates; into the dungeons and play dens of blacks who seek pleasure through bondage and pain.” Indeed, in the five years since Patton published this article, Black sexuality studies had continued to expand. Most recently, work by C. Riley Snorton, Sharon Holland, Tricia Rose, Joan Morgan, Jennifer Nash, E. Patrick Johnson, Lamonte Aidoo, Lisa B. Thompson, Shayne Lee, and others has given new directions in Black sexuality through various disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives.

An increase of representations of Black sexuality in film, television, literature, and song beg for more analyses of these artistic expressions. Hortense Spillers, when discussing Black women’s sexuality in her 2003 text Black, White, and in Colour, speaks to the importance of such studies, “Black women are the beached whales of the sexual universe, unvoiced, unseen, not doing, awaiting their verb. Their sexual experiences are depicted, but not often by them, and if and by the subject herself, often in the guise of vocal music, often in the self-contained accent and sheer romance of the blues” (153). These are not issues that are unique to any one particular region of the vast and diverse African diaspora.

This is a call for papers that offers analysis of Black sexuality studies in Africa and the African diaspora. Essays may address any time period or geographical region. Those that focus on any form of art by Black artists, including film, literature, song, drama/theater, and visual art are particularly welcome. Studies of historical figures are also encouraged. Some topics to consider: How have Black people’s depictions of sexuality changed over time? How have Black people used forms of art to respond to the colonial or dominant “gaze”? How have Black people reclaimed their bodies from the “gaze”? How have Black people defined or redefined sexuality? In other words, how have Black people generated or created new expressions of sexuality rather than responded to existing ones? What does pleasure or desire mean within the context of Black people’s lives and work? What is the relationship between resistance, protest, and sexuality for Black people in the diaspora?

Please send 300 word abstracts (saved as Microsoft Word document) to [email protected] by December 10, 2018 and, if accepted, full essays by July 1,  2019.

Prof. Tara T. Green
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Black Sexuality Studies
  • Black feminism
  • Black masculinity
  • African Diaspora
  • Pleasure
  • Desire
  • Black bodies
  • Black Intimacy

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Why the West Could Not Hear Beale Street: Baldwin’s World-Sense of Female Sexuality
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010009 - 10 Jan 2020
Abstract
While scholars have noted James Baldwin’s revisionary and transformative literary approach to social constructions of race, class, gender, and crime, there has been very little conversation in that vein regarding If Beale Street Could Talk (1974). Upon its publication, many critics issued negative [...] Read more.
While scholars have noted James Baldwin’s revisionary and transformative literary approach to social constructions of race, class, gender, and crime, there has been very little conversation in that vein regarding If Beale Street Could Talk (1974). Upon its publication, many critics issued negative reviews of the novel, failing to recognize how Baldwin’s view of female sexuality both embraced notions of the body and constructs from an African-centered world-sense. Using a range of theoretical resources from Africana Studies, this paper analyzes how moving beyond Western frameworks regarding knowledge, sexual discourse, and behavior offers a new interpretation of Baldwin’s aims that reclaims and re-imagines Black sexual politics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
Sexuality and Healing in the African Diaspora: A Transnational Approach to Toni Morrison and Gyasi
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040183 - 10 Dec 2019
Abstract
This article examines the literary production of two writers from the African diaspora, specifically African American Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2008), and Ghanaian-American Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016), to explore their significance as counter-narratives that defy the “official” historiography of enslavement times in order [...] Read more.
This article examines the literary production of two writers from the African diaspora, specifically African American Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2008), and Ghanaian-American Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016), to explore their significance as counter-narratives that defy the “official” historiography of enslavement times in order to set the records straight, as it were. By highlighting these women writers’ project of resistance against normative definitions of black bodies, it is my contention that these works effectively mobilize notions of race, gender, and sexuality. Revisiting the harmful and denigrating legacy of stereotypical designation of enslaved women, these writers make significant political and literary interventions to facilitate the recovery, wholeness, and sanctity of the violated and abjected black body. In their attempt to counter ongoing processes of commodification, exploitation, fetishization, and sexualization, I argue that these writers chronicle new forms of identity and agency that promote individual and generational healing and care as forms of protest and resistance against toxic definitions of hegemonic gender and sexuality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
Afropolitan Sexual and Gender Identities in Colonial Senegal
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040166 - 19 Oct 2019
Abstract
Drawing from Achille Mbembe’s theorization of Afropolitanism as an opportunity for modern Africans “to experience several worlds” and develop flux, hybrid, and constantly mobile identities (“Afropolitanism” 29), this essay attempts to make an intervention into the ways in which this phenomenon appeared in [...] Read more.
Drawing from Achille Mbembe’s theorization of Afropolitanism as an opportunity for modern Africans “to experience several worlds” and develop flux, hybrid, and constantly mobile identities (“Afropolitanism” 29), this essay attempts to make an intervention into the ways in which this phenomenon appeared in colonial Senegalese culture. A neglected site of Afropolitanism was the colonial metropolis of Dakar which reflected subversive homosexual or transgender identities during the 1940s and 50s. Focusing on key writings such as Armand Corre’s book, L’ethnographie criminelle d’après les observations et les statistiques judiciaires recueillies dans les colonies françaises [criminal ethnography based on judiciary observations and statistics gathered from French colonies] (1894) and Michael Davidson’s travelogue, “Dakar” (1970), this essay wants to uncover a part of the silenced and neglected history of sexual and gender variances in colonial Senegalese culture. In these texts, one finds salient examples of Afropolitanism which were deployed as tools of resistance against homophobia and transphobia and as means of affirming erotic, sensual, and transgressive identities. In the end, colonial Senegalese culture transcended gender and sexual binaries in order to provide space for recognizing and examining Afropolitan sensibilities that have thus far been neglected in African studies scholarship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
Theorizing Conscious Black Asexuality through Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk about Love
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 165; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040165 - 18 Oct 2019
Abstract
Asexuality is often defined as some degree of being void of sexual attraction, interest, or desire. Black asexual people have been made invisible, silent, or pathologized in most fiction, scholarly literature, and mainstream LGBTQ movements. Claire Kann’s 2018 young adult romance novel, Let’s [...] Read more.
Asexuality is often defined as some degree of being void of sexual attraction, interest, or desire. Black asexual people have been made invisible, silent, or pathologized in most fiction, scholarly literature, and mainstream LGBTQ movements. Claire Kann’s 2018 young adult romance novel, Let’s Talk About Love, explores Black asexuality at the intersection of race and (a)sexuality. Through the story of the Black, bi-romantic, asexual, 19 year-old college student Alice Johnston, this text illuminates the diversity of Black sexuality in the Black Diaspora. Using a Black feminist sociological literary analysis to complete a close reading of the novel, I interrogate what Let’s Talk about Love offers for defining a Black asexual politic. To consider Black asexual politics beyond the controlling images of the asexual Mammy figure, and not merely in juxtaposition to the hypersexual Jezebel, calls us to instead center agency and self-definition. This project seeks to answer what Conscious Black Asexuality is, why it is a necessary concept for asexuality studies and the Diaspora, where we locate Black asexuality in Black history, and how Let’s Talk about Love by Claire Kann presents a depiction of Black agentic queerness that reclaims agency and intimacy within one’s sexual politics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
Re-Framing Hottentot: Liberating Black Female Sexuality from the Mammy/Hottentot Bind
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 161; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040161 - 14 Oct 2019
Abstract
Taking up Michele Wallace’s call to interrogate popular cultural forms and unravel their relationship with the political discourse of the time, this paper begins by examining the popular discourse about Black female sexuality in the USA. White, cis-hetero-patriarchal cultural and visual imagination still [...] Read more.
Taking up Michele Wallace’s call to interrogate popular cultural forms and unravel their relationship with the political discourse of the time, this paper begins by examining the popular discourse about Black female sexuality in the USA. White, cis-hetero-patriarchal cultural and visual imagination still represents Black women either as asexual and maternal mammies or as the deviant ‘Other’ that is as Venus Hottentots or ‘hypersexual’ Jezebels. Maternal and sexual scripts were first naturalized by popular and scientific discourse(s), and then covertly deployed by the dominant white hetero-patriarchal set up to mask the exploitation of Black women, and constrict the opportunities of growth that were available to them even after the emancipation. This paper analyzes how Black women writers like Elizabeth Alexander and Alice Walker, and visual artists such as Renee Cox develop an oppositional gaze, to use hooks’s phrase, and ‘re-frame’ the Venus Hottentot from their radical and subversive points of view. Building on theoretical insights of Gina Dent, Cornel West, and Audre Lorde, this paper engages with the oft-neglected relationship between pleasure, desire, identity, and Black female sexuality. Thus, Black female sexuality that has been expunged and/or termed ‘deviant’ actually becomes a source of empowerment for Black women. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
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Open AccessArticle
Mortifying Earthly Desires in Toni Morrison’s Home
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 156; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040156 - 29 Sep 2019
Abstract
As is true of all of Toni Morrison’s texts, Home does not shy away from difficult topics, particularly those related to sexuality. In this instance, her novel reveals the contestation between the societal narrative of Black male sexual depravity and the struggle to [...] Read more.
As is true of all of Toni Morrison’s texts, Home does not shy away from difficult topics, particularly those related to sexuality. In this instance, her novel reveals the contestation between the societal narrative of Black male sexual depravity and the struggle to assert an authentic, strong, good, identity that privileges mutually balanced relationships. While characters falter and make mistakes, Morrison’s text is about redemption and reconciliation to the ideals of a self-created theology steeped in a rich African and African American cultural heritage and tradition. This essay argues that Morrison uses a biblical theme to create a culturally relevant theology that shifts the narrative away from Black male depravity to a place of deliberate, conscientious, mutually beneficial relationships. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
Man up! Masculinity and (Homo)sexuality in René Depestre’s Transatlantic World
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 150; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030150 - 16 Sep 2019
Abstract
The question of homosexuality in Francophone Caribbean literature is often overlooked. However, the ways in which the Haitian René Depestre’s Le mât de cocagne (The Festival of the Greasy Pole, 1979) and “Blues pour une tasse de thé vert” (“Blues for a Cup [...] Read more.
The question of homosexuality in Francophone Caribbean literature is often overlooked. However, the ways in which the Haitian René Depestre’s Le mât de cocagne (The Festival of the Greasy Pole, 1979) and “Blues pour une tasse de thé vert” (“Blues for a Cup of Green Tea”), a short story from the collection Eros dans un train chinois (Eros on a Chinese Train, 1990) portray homoeroticism and homosexuality begs further study. In these texts, the study of the violence that surrounds the representation of sexuality reveals the sociopolitical implications of erotic and racial images in a French transatlantic world. Hence, the proposed essay “Man up!” interrogates a (Black) hegemonic masculinity inherited from colonialism and the homophobia it generates. This masculinity prescribes normative traits that frequently appear toxic as it thrives on hypersexuality and brute force. When these two traits become associated with violence and homoeroticism, however, they threaten this very masculinity. Initially, Depestre valorizes “solar eroticism,” a French Caribbean expression of a Black sexuality, free and joyful, and “geolibertinage,” its transnational and global expression. Namely, his novel and short story sing a hegemonic and polyamorous heterosexuality, respectively, in a postcolonial milieu (Haiti) and a diasporic space (Paris). The misadventures of his male characters suggest that eroticism in transatlantic spaces has more to do with Thanatos (death) than Eros (sex). Though Depestre formally explores the construction of the other and the mechanisms of racism and oppression in essays, he also tackles these themes in his fictional work. Applying Caribbean feminist and gendered lenses to his fiction bring to light the intricate bonds between racism, sexism and homophobia. Such a framework reveals the many facets of patriarchy and its mechanism of control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
Open AccessArticle
“Have You Ever Seen the Crowd Goin’ Apeshit?”: Disrupting Representations of Animalistic Black Femininity in the French Imaginary
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030135 - 09 Aug 2019
Abstract
16 June 2018. London Stadium. Beyoncé and Jay–Z revealed the premiere of the music video Apeshit. Filmed inside the Louvre Museum in Paris, Beyoncé’s sexual desirability powerfully dialogues with Western canons of high art that have dehumanized or erased the black female [...] Read more.
16 June 2018. London Stadium. Beyoncé and Jay–Z revealed the premiere of the music video Apeshit. Filmed inside the Louvre Museum in Paris, Beyoncé’s sexual desirability powerfully dialogues with Western canons of high art that have dehumanized or erased the black female body. Dominant tropes have historically associated the black female body with the realm of nature saddled with an animalistic hypersexuality. With this timely release, Apeshit engages with the growing current debate about the ethic of representation of the black subject in European museums. Here, I argue that Beyoncé transcends the tension between nature and culture into a syncretic language to subvert a dominant imperialistic gaze. Drawing on black feminist theories and art history, a formal analysis traces the genealogy and stylistic expression of this vocabulary to understand its political implications. Findings pinpoint how Beyoncé laces past and present, the regal nakedness of her African heritage and Western conventions of the nude to convey the complexity, sensuality, and humanity of black women—thus drawing a critical reimagining of museal practices and enriching the collective imaginary at large. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unsilencing Black Sexuality in the African Diaspora)
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