By Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman
In opposed to the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and demanding situations cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century in the course of the 20th, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest renowned theories of id, pathology, nationwide belonging, and racial distinction in American tradition. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to precise ancient sessions, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes akin to sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of specific racial accidents and prompt types of social fix and political redress from the time of slavery, via post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black strength events, to the overdue 20th century. Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, severe race, and poststructuralist theories to undergo on literary genres from slave narratives to technological know-how fiction. reading works by means of African American writers, together with Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she exhibits how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African american citizens for person and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that these representations have been basic to the improvement of African American sorts of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
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Extra info for Against the Closet: Identity, Political Longing, and Black Figuration
For it is apparent that white men projected their own desires onto Negroes: their own passion for Negro women was not fully acceptable to society or the self and hence not readily admissible. Sexual desires could be e√ectively denied and the accompanying anxiety and guilt in some measure assuaged, however, by imputing them to others. It is not we, but others, who are guilty. ’’≥∞ He goes on to describe the methods by which black men accused of raping white women were punished: the penalty for black men’s sexual encounters with white women was either castration or execution.
The absence and anonymity of Douglass’s father a≈rms his birth not into human community but into chattel slavery. In tracing his genealogy, Douglass laments that he knows neither his date of birth nor the identity of his father. Noting that white children on the plantation knew their birthdays, Douglass acknowledges that the circumstances surrounding a person’s birth announce her membership in a speciﬁc social network and in the human family in general. The circumstances of Douglass’s birth—speciﬁcally, what is not known about it—make him and, he believes, all slaves akin to horses and other chattel on the plantation.
This chapter reads literary renderings of black enslavement as founding articulations of a plausible connection between the institutionalization of sexual violence and racial subordination in slavery and modern theories of sexual di√erence. Tracing certain modern epistemologies of sexuality to the era before the late nineteenth century—their acknowledged moment of formal entrance into the ideological order—I suggest that representations of sexual perversity under conditions of enslavement have contributed to notions of sexual alterity and to the ideologies by which aberrant sexual practices were named, domesticated, and policed in the ﬁrst decades of the twentieth century.
Against the Closet: Identity, Political Longing, and Black Figuration by Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman