Critical Perspectives on bell hooks

Critical Perspectives on bell hooks

Critical Perspectives on bell hooks

Critical Perspectives on bell hooks


Although bell hooks has long challenged the dominant paradigms of race, class, and gender, there has never been a comprehensive book critically reflecting upon this seminal scholar's body of work. Her written works aim to transgress and disrupt those codes that exclude others as intellectually mediocre, and hooks' challenge to various hegemonic practices has heavily influenced scholars in numerous areas of inquiry. This important resource thematically examines hooks' works across various disciplinary divides, including her critique on educational theory and practice, theorization of racial construction, dynamics of gender, and spirituality and love as correctives in postmodern life. Ultimately, this book offers a fresh perspective for scholars and students wanting to engage in the prominent work of bell hooks, and makes available to its readers the full significance of her work. Compelling and unprecedented, Critical Perspectives on bell hooks is a must-read for scholars, professors, and students interested in issues of race, class, and gender.


Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words,
but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world.
To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world
in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new
naming. Human beings are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in
action-reflection. (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary
[New York: Continuum, 2000], p. 88)

The above epigraph speaks to bell hooks’s ethical stance, pedagogical vision, political sensibilities around the importance of transgression, philosophical anthropology informed by an antiessentialist framework, passion to help to create a world where multiple sites of oppression and dehumanization are challenged and overthrown, and belief in a collective movement toward spiritual and existential enrichment. Indeed, the above epigraph by Paulo Freire speaks to the young bell hooks within her lived context of challenging silences, of becoming within the facticity of lived social and familial spaces, and of naming as an act of empowerment.

Renaming, renarrating is not new to bell hooks or to Gloria Watkins. Part of this practice of naming is captured in a form of “back talk.” Back talk “was a courageous act—an act of risk and daring.” Yet, for hooks, it was a form of creating distance, a mode of achieving a perspective on what might otherwise remain unnamed and unspoken. At an early age, hooks knew of the importance of what Freire terms problem-posing education. She dared to speak and dared to speak back.

Back talk is not inherently a form of disrespect; it can function as a mode of self-assertion, a way of being agential, a way in which we are able to make ourselves known, recognized, and valued. Back talk is a mode of coming to voice, a way of “taking a stand” as when one resists. It is a species of fearless speech. Hence, for hooks, voice is a powerful vehicle in terms of which we name who and what we are. hooks writes, “Whenever I tried in childhood to compel folks around me to do things differently, to look at the world differently, using theory as intervention, as a way to challenge the status quo, I was punished.” In the very midst of her parents’ attempt to build a home where the father is symbolic of law and order, hooks was “relentlessly questioning, daring to challenge male authority, rebelling against the very patriarchal norm they [her mother and father] were trying so hard to institutionalize.” In confronting male authority, hooks was problem-posing the historical sedimentation of patriarchy. “That which had existed objectively but had not been . . .

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