Resisting the Margins: Black Lesbian Self-Definition and Epistemology Open Access

Dorsainvil, Monique (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3j3333070?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract

Resisting the Margins:Black Lesbian Self-Definition and Epistemology

by Monique Dorsainvil

In writing this thesis, my goal is to encourage the reader to take an innovative and
revolutionary view of black lesbians, their relationships, their history, and the way they
navigated their lived human existence. This thesis engages the following four questions:
How do black lesbians define themselves? How do they experience the world around
them? How do black lesbians navigate their identity in a predominantly white
heterosexual context? How do black lesbians create community and home?
This thesis is organized into four chapters. The first chapter, "Resisting the Margins:
Toward a Black Lesbian Epistemology," focuses on the ways in which knowledge is
produced and reproduced to benefit specific individuals, namely heterosexual white men.
The chapter seeks to understand black lesbian mechanisms for knowing and interpreting
lived experiences. The second chapter "Queering the Harlem Renaissance: Historical
Understandings of Black Lesbian Identity," looks at black lesbian history in a United
States context. This chapter mainly focuses on black women during the Harlem
Renaissance in order to debunk the theory that black lesbian women emerged with the
modern Women, Civil, and Gay Liberation movements. Chapter three of this thesis,
entitled "The Black Lesbian Paradox: Navigating sexism, racism, and homophobia in
heterosexual white America," concentrates on the ways in which black lesbian women
experience interlocking systems of oppression. The final chapter, "Undoing
Ethnocentrism: Investigating Transnational Understandings of Black Lesbian Identity,"
investigates black lesbian identity outside of the United States. This chapter seeks to
understand the experiences of black lesbian women in the social and cultural context in
which they live. This chapter illustrates how black lesbian experiences are not universal,
but dependent on a myriad of social, political, cultural, and economic factors.

Resisting the Margins:Black Lesbian Self-Definition and Epistemology
by Monique Dorsainvil
Advisor: Dr. Regine Jackson
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Emory College of Arts and Sciences
of Emory University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of
Bachelor of Arts/Sciences with Honors
Department of Women's Studies
2009

Table of Contents



Table of Contents

Introduction........................................................................................1

CHAPTER 1: Resisting the Margins: Toward a Black Lesbian
Epistemology ..................................................................................... 6

White Male Epistemology. .....................................................................6

Black Lesbian Epistemology ..................................................................8


Cheryl Clarke: A Black Lesbian Standpoint..............................................11

CHAPTER 2: Queering the Harlem Renaissance: Historical Understandings
of Black Lesbian Identity .....................................................................16


Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935) ........................................................17

Nella Larsen (1981-1964)....................................................................18

Angelina Weld-Grimké (1880-1958) .....................................................19

Mabel Hampton (1902-1989) ...............................................................21

CHAPTER 3
: The Black Lesbian Paradox: Navigating Sexism, Racism, and
Homophobia in Heterosexual, White America..........................................27

Black Lesbians and Feminists Redefining Feminist Identity........................27

Audre Lorde on Questions of Silence and Difference................................33

CHAPTER 4: Undoing Ethnocentrism: Investigating Transnational
Understandings of Black Lesbian Identity...............................................40

Voices from the African Diaspora: Conditions of Black Lesbian Exile...........42

Immigration as a means of personal survival..........................................43

Conclusion.........................................................................................55

Works Cited.......................................................................................58

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