BLACKNESS IS... BLACKNESS AIN'T

BLACKNESS IS... BLACKNESS AIN'T E. Patrick Johnson’s new publication, Appropriating Blackness, marks a daring intervention in performance studies and African American studies. Its critical and ethical concerns will resonate for those working in numerous other fields, such as cultural anthropology; philosophy; critical ethnicity and race studies; gay, lesbian, and queer studies; pedagogy studies; and music. Johnson begins by claiming that “blackness” has no essence. He mines the socially constructed nature of ethnic-racial difference through performance theory to say that blackness can be said to give the appearance of a naturalized category because of the endlessly reiterated presentations qua performances of blackness in the context of everyday life. This appearance is, of course, always unstable, and this instability will, in turn, make any claims to “black authenticity” disputable. Johnson builds on Judith Butler’s work on gender and performance in Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter by bringing race to bear more forcefully on theories of performativity.1 His broad deployment of the rubric of “performance” to include a plethora of social, cultural, and political texts — from Baraka’s Black Nationalist poetry to gospel music to his grandmother’s oral history — can be read as one of his project’s boldest moves, even if at times http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies Duke University Press

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2005 by Duke University Press
ISSN
1064-2684
eISSN
1527-9375
DOI
10.1215/10642684-11-1-135
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

E. Patrick Johnson’s new publication, Appropriating Blackness, marks a daring intervention in performance studies and African American studies. Its critical and ethical concerns will resonate for those working in numerous other fields, such as cultural anthropology; philosophy; critical ethnicity and race studies; gay, lesbian, and queer studies; pedagogy studies; and music. Johnson begins by claiming that “blackness” has no essence. He mines the socially constructed nature of ethnic-racial difference through performance theory to say that blackness can be said to give the appearance of a naturalized category because of the endlessly reiterated presentations qua performances of blackness in the context of everyday life. This appearance is, of course, always unstable, and this instability will, in turn, make any claims to “black authenticity” disputable. Johnson builds on Judith Butler’s work on gender and performance in Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter by bringing race to bear more forcefully on theories of performativity.1 His broad deployment of the rubric of “performance” to include a plethora of social, cultural, and political texts — from Baraka’s Black Nationalist poetry to gospel music to his grandmother’s oral history — can be read as one of his project’s boldest moves, even if at times

Journal

GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay StudiesDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2005

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