Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame

Where “Black” Meets “Queer”

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 16 b&w photos Published: July 2006

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Shame, Kathryn Bond Stockton argues in Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame, has often been a meeting place for the signs “black” and “queer” and for black and queer people—overlapping groups who have been publicly marked as degraded and debased. But when and why have certain forms of shame been embraced by blacks and queers? How does debasement foster attractions? How is it used for aesthetic delight? What does it offer for projects of sorrow and ways of creative historical knowing? How and why is it central to camp?

Stockton engages the domains of African American studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, film theory, photography, semiotics, and gender studies. She brings together thinkers rarely, if ever, read together in a single study—James Baldwin, Radclyffe Hall, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eldridge Cleaver, Todd Haynes, Norman Mailer, Leslie Feinberg, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino—and reads them with and against major theorists, including Georges Bataille, Sigmund Freud, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, and Leo Bersani. Stockton asserts that there is no clear, mirrored relation between the terms “black” and “queer”; rather, seemingly definitive associations attached to each are often taken up or crossed through by the other. Stockton explores dramatic switchpoints between these terms: the stigmatized “skin” of some queers’ clothes, the description of blacks as an “economic bottom,” the visual force of interracial homosexual rape, the complicated logic of so-called same-sex miscegenation, and the ways in which a famous depiction of slavery (namely, Morrison’s Beloved) seems bound up with depictions of AIDS. All of the thinkers Stockton considers scrutinize the social nature of shame as they examine the structures that make debasements possible, bearable, pleasurable, and creative, even in their darkness.


“ [The book] breaks down the false divisions between emotions and strategy as well as between culture and politics, and thus serves as an important lesson for those of us engaged in social justice activism and for those of us who study culture, sexuality, emotions, and politics.” — Elizabeth Kaminski, Signs

Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame explores the subterranean passages of Shame. She deftly uncovers the way shame has shaped the identities of queer and black communities in literature and film. She elegantly undresses the artists who crawl, sweat and pull themselves through the dark underbelly of guilt and debasement. Her work is both invitation and seduction.” — Troy Williams, Radio Active, KRCL

“Like the best queer theory, Beautiful Bottom calls for new modes of reading that break down the distinctions of subject and object animating many identity projects. . . . [E]very sentence is weighed for attraction and delight.” — Tavia Nyong’o, GLQ

“Stockton’s strength is in her consideration of texts (broadly defined) that ‘end in an impasse, without a clear message or political program, unable to solve all the problems they pose’.” — Mark Fulk, American Literature

“This is a book for those with a strong bent for critical theory. Recommended.” — J. Pruitt, Choice

Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame is an exciting, pointed, splendidly written, culturally important book.” — Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, author of Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kathryn Bond Stockton is Professor of English and Director of Gender Studies at the University of Utah. She is the author of God Between Their Lips: Desire Between Women in Irigaray, Brontë, and Eliot.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction Embracing Shame: “Black” and “Queer” in Debasement 1

1. Cloth Wounds, or When Queers Are Martyred to Clothes: Debasements of a Fabricated Skin 39

2. Bottom Values: Anal Economics in the History of Black Neighborhoods 67

3. When Are Dirty Details and Scenes Compelling? Tucked in the Cuts of Interracial Anal Rape 101

4. Erotic Corpse: Homosexual Miscegenation and the Decomposition of Attraction 149

5. Prophylactics and Brains: Slavery in the Cybernetic Age of AIDS 177

Conclusion: Dark Camp: Behind and Ahead 205

Notes 223

Bibliography 257

Index 265
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3796-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3783-6
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