Blackness, sexuality, and transnational desire: Initial notes toward a new research agenda

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3 Scopus citations


The space economy of capitalism that exploits natural resources of poorer nations to maintain rich ones, rendering poor nations and their people both consumers and "the consumed" is not new, but it certainly has exploded in recent years in a process of multiple ruptures, ripples, and other movement that has come to be called globalization. Globalization and the movement and trade that results are certainly not new for Blacks. Paul Gilroy's (1993) Black Atlantic has become the representative text for the academic "movement" of Black or African diasporas, although it is certainly not its most well received, especially by scholars of the Atlantic below U.S. borders. In it, Gilroy traces ground that Pan-Africanists such as Martin R. Delany, Edward W. Blyden and W.E.B. Du Bois fi rst explored, describing an alternate public sphere that forms a community consciousness and solidarity that maintains identifi cation outside the national time/space in order to live inside, with a diff erence. The Caribbean region is an example, par excellence, of transnationalism. Having fi rst participated in the making of a global economy as colonial outposts of European imperialist expansion, which involved the violent depopulation of the indigenous people and the extraction of raw materials by kidnapped enslaved Africans (and later indentured Southeast Asians and Chinese), the region was a crucial node in the Triangle Trade between consumers in Europe and the consumed in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Today, owing to this history or paradigm, it is a central hub of movement among islands, other places in the Americas, and former European colonial masters-mostly in reverse. Scholars have turned to the transnational to name and conceptualize the rapid back and forth movement of individuals, groups, commodities, and ideas between and across national borders. This conceptual framing was concurrent with the explosion of literatures on globalization that attempt to name, in various ways, the massive expansion, lightning speed, and far reach of global capital that carries with it the cultural imperatives of its making. In her review essay of current works on nationalism, migration, and cultural production within the Black Atlantic world, "Politics Beyond Boundaries," Caribbean anthropologist Deborah Thomas (2000) repositions hegemonic discourses of movement that too often exclude Black subjects. According to Thomas, "hegemony and resistance, modernity and tradition, global and local, secular and sacred, nation and state are seen as fl uid relationships, as mutually constituting conceptual tools rather than oppositional categorization poles" (p. 266). Her concerns center on people's relationship to the state and linkages among persons across national boundaries. She expands this project in a recent anthology. However, only two chapters specifi cally address intersections among globalization, Blackness, and gender. Sexuality is much more inclusive a concept than the limited reading of "sexual orientation" or "preference," and the confl ation of the concept with homosexuality or with disease vectors. To talk about sexuality, therefore, is to talk not only about the everyday lived experience of the sexual(ized) body, but also about the imagination, desires, and intentions of the sexual(ized) subject. These are constructed by very particular confl uences of power/culture/history and are made daily by the individual within these grossly unequal webs of structuration. Support for further research and training will certainly make a measurable increase in the number of publications and will push considerably forward studies of sexuality, globalization, and blackness. One example of the way in which focused support for research projects has moved forward social theory and concomitant on-the-ground work is research on queer sexualities that has recently made important contributions to analyses on immigration, globalization and transnationalism. Various streams of theorization-globalization, queer, postcolonial, transnational- use a number of populations in Europe, the Americas, and especially South Asia as examples of cosmopolitanism and dynamism. The dearth of studies of African and African-descended subjects seems to suggest that Blacks do not move (except in the wake of cataclysmic factors such as famine, war, and natural disasters, for example-and then are only described as collateral to the disaster), despite realities of vigorous immigration patterns and a vigorous body of creative literature that documents and imagines those realities. Therefore, before we can trace relationships between the diasporic Black experience in the United States and new (im)migrations, we must unpack, briefl y, conceptual fl aws that result in a brand of scholarly refusal that presents Blackness as primordial, unchanging, and bound to the United States-thus, inimical to the notion of Black transnational participation in globalization. This refusal constitutes a sturdy barrier obstructing contextual and engaged research and theorization of current transformations of U.S. racial, gender, and sexual formations as a result of historical and rapidly expanding transnational fl ows of Black persons and notions of Blackness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBlack Sexualities
Subtitle of host publicationProbing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies
PublisherRutgers University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780813546018
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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