Whether engaged in same-sex desire or gender nonconformity, black queer individuals live with being perceived as a threat while simultaneously being subjected to the threat of physical, psychological, and socioeconomic injury. Attending to and challenging threats has become a defining element in queer black artists’ work throughout the black diaspora.
In Black Queer Freedom: Spaces of Injury and Paths of Desire (U Illinois Press, 2020), GerShun Avilez analyzes the work of diasporic artists who, denied government protections, have used art to create spaces for justice. He first focuses on how the state seeks to inhibit the movement of black queer bodies through public spaces, whether on the street or across borders. From there, he pivots to institutional spaces--specifically prisons and hospitals--and the ways such places seek to expose queer bodies in order to control them. Throughout, he reveals how desire and art open routes to black queer freedom when policy, the law, racism, and homophobia threaten physical safety, civil rights, and social mobility.
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GerShun Avilez is an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Radical Aesthetics and Modern Black Nationalism.
John Marszalek III is author of Coming Out of the Magnolia Closet: Same-Sex Couples in Mississippi (2020, University Press of Mississippi). He is clinical faculty of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Southern New Hampshire University. John is on Twitter at @marsjf3.