BLACK WOMEN’S STUDIES: INTIMATE PROCESSES OF CARE AND CRITIQUE
EDITED BY KEERTI ARORA
“Communities sustain life,” writes bell hooks in all about love. Given our current condition of communal fragmentation, selective privileging of certain lives over others, polarized thinking, and institutional violence, one wonders which communities hooks was referring to in her celebratory evaluation of them. When and how have communities sustained life? Who and what constitutes community? hooks borrows M. Scott Peck’s definition of community as “a group of individuals…who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together,’ and to ‘delight in each other, and make other’s conditions our own.’” The contributors to this section address recent work on variously located, historical, and present-day black women. These texts explore conditions that foster or prevent the sustenance of the kind of community that hooks envisions; readers see possibilities and examples of when subversions have been, and how they can be made possible through friendships, political organizing, allyship, and advocacy. Readers also witness organized forces that hampered community and intimacy. Black women’s representation and the causes that engender their (often politically motivated) visibility, both as individuals and as collectives, are additional vital concerns in this section.
The section begins with Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl, a lived experience-inspired, fictional exploration of black women’s relational and professional existence in present-day corporate New York. The novel asks how microaggressions and institutional racism delimit black women’s friendships and racial consciousness. Next, Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism continues the intersectional refrain to revise feminist politics such that they include tangible, debilitating inequities particularly faced by black women. While foregrounding this exclusion, Kendall studies their vulnerability to violence, victim-blaming and shaming, and poverty to argue for expansive feminist rhetoric. Jennifer C. Nash’s Birthing Black Mothers also advances a revised feminist project, albeit in the context of the black mother as a pathologized symbol and black motherhood as political currency in current American Left politics. She interviews doulas, examines popular culture iconography, obstetric violence, and argues for a re-articulation of black motherhood that understands its nuances outside of the current political, crisis-centered rhetoric. Next, Samantha Pinto’s Infamous Bodies reorients readers to the archive of key infamous black women to ask how one can imagine their political subjectivity through a hermeneutics of vulnerability. She rethinks their cultural representations, examines how they were central to shaping political concepts, and studies their embodiment to imagine black feminist futures.
Continuing this spirit of archival-methodological intervention, Jennifer Morgan’s Reckoning with Slavery takes readers through the development of racial capitalism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Morgan shows the implications of racial capitalism’s contradictory reliance on black reproductive labor and simultaneous denial of kinship bonds to enslaved people. Black Women, Black Love charts the reverberations of this denial in the context of contemporary romantic relationships. Dianne Stewart contends that the violence of inherited poverty, eurocentrism, patriarchy, and mass incarceration hampers romantic relationality. bell hooks’s all about love follows a text that responds to the current status of lovelessness by defining and imagining possibilities of an agentive love that is healing, inclusive, and empathy-fostering. Lastly, Shennette Garrett-Scott’sBanking on Freedom examines black women’s relationship with, enmeshment, and contribution to western capitalism. It takes readers through rich examples of black women’s financial innovation, particularly those of the first black women to run a bank, showing how they advocated for each other.
These texts, seen together, look back and push us forward. They enable an imagining of black feminist futures even as they analyze conditions impeding them. They help us build practices for celebratory co-existence that not only prioritize care but also challenge those practices that sustain a distanced, disembodied romanticization of black suffering and marginalization of black people in contemporary lived contexts.