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Negotiating Difference

Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality

Encamped within the limits of experience and "authenticity," critics today often stake out their positions according to race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, and vigilantly guard the boundaries against any incursions into their privileged territory. In this book, Michael Awkward raids the borders of contemporary criticism to show how debilitating such "protectionist" stances can be and how much might be gained by crossing our cultural boundaries.

From Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It to Michael Jackson’s physical transmutations, from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon to August Wilson’s Fences, from male scholars’ investments in feminism to white scholars’ in black texts—Awkward explores cultural moments that challenge the exclusive critical authority of race and gender. In each instance he confronts the question: What do artists, scholars, and others concerned with representations of Afro-American life make of the view that gender, race, and sexuality circumscribe their own and others’ lives and narratives? Throughout he demonstrates the perils and merits of the sort of "boundary crossing" this book ultimately makes: a black male feminism.

In pursuing a black male feminist criticism, Awkward’s study acknowledges the complexities of interpretation in an age when a variety of powerful discourses have proliferated on the subject of racial, gendered, and sexual difference; at the same time, it identifies this proliferation as an opportunity to negotiate seemingly fixed cultural and critical positions.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Reading across the Lines
1: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Reading
2: A Black Man’s Place in Black Feminist Criticism
3: Negotiations of Power: White Critics, Black Texts, and the
Self-Referential Impulse
4: Representing Rape: On Spike, Iron Mike, and the "Desire Dynamic"
5: "Unruly and Let Loose": Myth, Ideology, and Gender in Song of Solomon
6: "The Crookeds with the Straights": On Fences, Race, and the Politics of
Adaptation
7: "A Slave to the Rhythm": Essential(ist) Transmutations; or, The Curious
Case of Michael Jackson
Notes
Index

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