Marquis Bey’s debut collection, Them Goon Rules, is an un-rulebook, a long-form essayistic sermon that meditates on how Blackness and nonnormative gender impact and remix everything we claim to know.
A series of essays that reads like a critical memoir, this work queries the function and implications of politicized Blackness, Black feminism, and queerness. Bey binds together his personal experiences with social justice work at the New York–based Audre Lorde Project, growing up in Philly, and rigorous explorations of the iconoclasm of theorists of Black studies and Black feminism. Bey’s voice recalibrates itself playfully on a dime, creating a collection that tarries in both academic and nonacademic realms.
Fashioning fugitive Blackness and feminism around a line from Lil’ Wayne’s “A Millie,” Them Goon Rules is a work of “auto-theory” that insists on radical modes of thought and being as a refrain and a hook that is unapologetic, rigorously thoughtful, and uncompromising.
Representations of multiracial Americans, especially those with one black and one white parent, appear everywhere in contemporary culture, from reality shows to presidential politics. Some depict multiracial individuals as mired in painful confusion; others equate them with progress, as the embodiment of a postracial utopia. In Transcending Blackness, Ralina L. Joseph critiques both depictions as being rooted in—and still defined by—the racist notion that blackness is a deficit that must be overcome.
Analyzing emblematic representations of multiracial figures in popular culture—Jennifer Beals's character in the The L Word; the protagonist in Danny Senza's novel Caucasia; the title character in the independent film Mixing Nia; and contestants in a controversial episode of the reality show America's Next Top Model, who had to "switch ethnicities" for a photo shoot—Joseph identifies the persistence of two widespread stereotypes about mixed-race African Americans, those of "new millennium mulattas" and "exceptional multiracials." The former inscribes multiracial African Americans as tragic figures whose blackness predestines them for misfortune; the latter rewards mixed-race African Americans for successfully erasing their blackness. Addressing questions of authenticity, sexuality, and privilege, Transcending Blackness refutes the idea that race no longer matters in American society.
After Reconstruction, African Americans found themselves largely excluded from politics, higher education, and the professions. Martin Kilson explores how a modern African American intelligentsia developed amid institutionalized racism. He argues passionately for an ongoing commitment to communitarian leadership in the tradition of Du Bois.
Troubling Vision addresses American culture’s fixation on black visibility, exploring how blackness is persistently seen as a problem in public culture and even in black scholarship that challenges racist discourse. Through trenchant analysis, Nicole R. Fleetwood reorients the problem of black visibility by turning attention to what it means to see blackness and to the performative codes that reinforce, resignify, and disrupt its meaning. Working across visual theory and performance studies, Fleetwood asks, How is the black body visualized as both familiar and disruptive? How might we investigate the black body as a troubling presence to the scopic regimes that define it as such? How is value assessed based on visible blackness?
Fleetwood documents multiple forms of engagement with the visual, even as she meticulously underscores how the terms of engagement change in various performative contexts. Examining a range of practices from the documentary photography of Charles “Teenie” Harris to the “excess flesh” performances of black female artists and pop stars to the media art of Fatimah Tuggar to the iconicity of Michael Jackson, Fleetwood reveals and reconfigures the mechanics, codes, and metaphors of blackness in visual culture.
“Troubling Vision is a path-breaking book that examines the problem of seeing blackness—the simultaneous hyper-visibility and invisibility of African Americans—in US visual culture in the last half century. Weaving together critical modes and methodologies from performance studies, art history, critical race studies, visual culture analysis, and gender theory, Fleetwood expands Du Bois’s idea of double vision into a broad questioning of whether ‘representation itself will resolve the problem of the black body in the field of vision.’ With skilled attention to historical contexts, documentary practices, and media forms, she takes up the works of a broad variety of cultural producers, from photographers and playwrights to musicians and visual artists and examines black spectatorship as well as black spectacle. In chapters on the trope of ‘non-iconicity’ in the photographs of Charles (Teenie) Harris, the ‘visible seams’ in the digital images of the artist Fatimah Tuggar, and a coda on the un-dead Michael Jackson, Fleetwood's close analyses soar. Troubling Vision is a beautifully written, original, and important addition to the field of American Studies.”—Announcement of the American Studies Association for the 2012 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize