Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Desire, Belonging, Touch

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Desire, Belonging, Touch

Article excerpt

Desire, Belonging, Touch Sharon Patricia Holland's The Erotic Life of Racism, Durham: Duke University Press, 2012

In The Erotic Life of Racism, Sharon Patricia Holland asks us to imagine the erotic as the tie that binds humanity. Over and again Holland makes a case for the potential of the erotic, all the while illuminating what happens when the erotic is ignored. Each chapter takes on a different space to explore these possibilities-critical race theory, queer theory, and queer of color critique-until we finally reach the realm of fiction, where Holland draws on Faulkner and Derrida to articulate these new possibilities. Throughout there is a wish to touch, to desire, and to understand the way that that desire makes worlds and how ignoring it forecloses possibilities and reifies the status quo. For a thin book, it has a great deal of ambitionbringing critical race theory and queer theory together to investigate the possibilities of suturing antiracist work with desire. It is a forceful exploration of how we touch difference.

Racism, Holland argues, is one of the pernicious outcomes of misreading the erotic. Race is a result of racisms violent cordoning off of desire. Holland writes, "I am opening the door to a notion of the erotic' that oversteps the category of the autonomous so valued in queer theory so as to place the erotic-the personal and political dimension of desire-at the threshold of ideas about quotidian racist practice" (9). In the space where desire is imagined to be absent, black bodies are assigned to the realm of the ahistorical and biological, while white bodies are given autonomy and individuality. Ignoring the erotic, however, means misreading the language of this division. Without the erotic, this division is static, historical, and impassable.

Throughout the book, Holland foregrounds the resilience of race as a category. She argues that race and racial hierarchy are grounded in the materiality of race as articulated through history and biology. As a result, we cannot get "beyond race," Holland argues, unless we can understand it as located in everyday experiences of intimacy. This turn toward the intimate leads Holland to examine feminist and queer theory because they are assumed to be the province of the erotic. …

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