Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

There's No Place like "Home": Mining the Theoretical Terrain of Black Women's Studies, Black Queer Studies and Black Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

There's No Place like "Home": Mining the Theoretical Terrain of Black Women's Studies, Black Queer Studies and Black Studies

Article excerpt

"At the turn of the century, DuBois initiated and carried out his research both in Philadelphia and Atlanta with the expressed purpose and intent of documenting life and culture, thereby improving the life and culture of African Americans. By following his lead and bringing rigorous academic analyses and description to the discipline, scholars will continue to create new models of inquiry, examination, and evaluation useful to all disciplines".

--Nathaniel Norment Jr., The African American Studies Reader, 2001, xxxiii

"Black Studies," "Afro American Studies," "Pan-African Studies," and "African American Studies," programs and departments have been met with challenges and ideological unrest since their emergence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Responsible for disrupting dominant and hegemonic discourses surrounding race, identity, and white supremacy; as well as mining the political and theoretical terrain of empire, neo colonialism, and Black agency within the Western hemisphere, Black Studies has created a discipline within white towers of academic pursuit that challenged the way in which white academicians conceived of and defined knowledge. "The Civil Rights and Black Power movements of this period provided the historical backdrop and social street scene" (1) for Black Studies as a discipline to form, consequently, "the political and rhetorical strategies of the larger race and rights movement were deployed by intellectual and cultural activists demanding institutional support for the formation of [Black Studies]." (2)

Regrettably, Black Studies' aim at forging a unified front for Black academicians, intellectuals, and activists alike, simultaneously created an environment of hostility and invisibility for many Black women and Black Queer identified (3) scholars in the discipline. "Black women's institutional work as well as their intellectual interventions in black studies departments remained understudied, devalued, or marginalized by the reigning black male theorists who decided "race" to be the proper sphere of study." (4) This discursive maneuvering left many women in Black Studies disillusioned and isolated, inevitably creating the ideological space for the seedlings of Black Women's Studies as a separate discipline to be planted.

The abject positioning of Queer identified Black Studies theorists within the discipline has engendered a similar impasse in Black Studies. The Black Queer Studies movement has been on the rise as an intellectual and existential attendant to the Black Women's Studies movement for years, and most recently has garnered more ideological "currency in the academic marketplace." (5)

Both Black Queer Studies and Black Women's Studies as disciplines are prepared and have "the potential to transform how we theorize sexuality [and gender] in conjunction with other identity formations," (6) namely "Blackness". However, the establishment of these alternative disciplines and/or ideologically segregated spaces for Black scholars and students leaves no room for Black Studies, (as still a newly forming discipline itself), to grow as a viable and necessary discipline for all Black liberation. This five part article seeks to elaborate on the historical conversations of Black Women's Studies and to highlight the newly emergent dialogue of Black Queer Studies to initiate dialectic between the three disciplines in the interest of expanding Black Studies as the ideological and metaphorical "home" of Black libratory phenomena.


After 1965, Black women faced an ongoing battle with sexism within Black Civil Rights organizations. With the publication of the Moynihan Report, and the growing Black Nationalist movement, Black women underwent an onslaught of sexism at the hands of many prominent Black male figureheads. Maulana Karenga, one of the most influential advocates for African cultural and intellectual traditions and the founder of Kwanzaa (a cultural holiday) also found himself endorsing extremely reductive patriarchal roles for Black women. …

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