Resisting the Margins: Black Lesbian Self-Definition andEpistemology Open Access

Dorsainvil, Monique (2009)

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

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.

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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