Black Boyhood and the Queer Practices of Impossibility in African American Literary and Cultural Productions

Harris, Dionte, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ross, Marlon, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

“Black Boyhood and the Queer Practices of Impossibility in African American Literary and Cultural Productions,” examines the ways writers and artists mobilize queer Black boyhoods to engage and complicate discourses on Black and queer life and being, Black queer masculinities, and Black childhoods. This analysis is grounded in a framework I call Black queer becoming—a mode of theorizing that interrogates the relationship between antiblackness and queerphobia to understand how queer Black boys experience race, gender, and sexuality as a lived reality, social identification, and relation to power structures. A multimodal analytic as well as world-making practice of otherwise being and seeking, Black queer becoming theorizes how queer Black boys point towards modes of being, feeling, and relating that produce practices-of-living and ways of knowing outside of oppressive structures that interpellate and bind them as not-quite-children/human or always already adults. Black queer becoming seeks to confront our past to understand our present as means to imagine and strive towards a better future. “Black Boyhood” turns to the literary, artistic, and filmic works of James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney, Hank Willis Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, and Danez Smith to understand how these writers and artists represent the lived and social realities of queer Black boys as well as present a method for reappraising notions of not only queer Black boyhood but blackness and queerness more broadly. 

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Black boyhood, Gender and Sexuality, Queer Theory, African American Literature
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