The Erotic Life of Racism

The Erotic Life of Racism

Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: Published: April 2012

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

A major intervention in the fields of critical race theory, black feminism, and queer theory, The Erotic Life of Racism contends that theoretical and political analyses of race have largely failed to understand and describe the profound ordinariness of racism and the ways that it operates as a quotidian practice. If racism has an everyday life, how does it remain so powerful and yet mask its very presence? To answer this question, Sharon Patricia Holland moves into the territory of the erotic, understanding racism's practice as constitutive to the practice of racial being and erotic choice.

Reemphasizing the black/white binary, Holland reinvigorates critical engagement with race and racism. She argues that only by bringing critical race theory, queer theory, and black feminist thought into conversation with each other can we fully envision the relationship between racism and the personal and political dimensions of our desire. The Erotic Life of Racism provocatively redirects our attention to a desire no longer independent of racism but rather embedded within it.


“Holland’s book is thorough in its critique of cultural theory on race and the erotic, and it convincingly argues that the erotic has the potential of bringing the ‘private’ life of racism into view.” — Stine H. Bang, Ethnic and Racial Studies

The Erotic Life of Racism is a challenging and necessary text.” — Carlos Ulises Decena, GLQ

“A much welcome contribution to queer ethnic studies. . . . Holland situates her project squarely at the intersection of critical race theory and queer theory. However, she does not ask the usual question, What can these two bodies of theoretical literature say to each other? Instead, she asks, What purposes are served by the maneuvers that have kept these two fields separate and what can we learn by pushing against that separation? Her answers are surprising and should be part of a conversation remaking both critical race theory and queer theory.”  — Michael Hames-García, Feminist Studies

"I love this book. I found myself at different turns thrilled, affirmed, unnerved, and shamed by Sharon Patricia Holland's provocations. Tenderly and chillingly, and truly full-frontally, Holland confronts us with what 'everyday racism' looks like in the world—and the academy. Brilliantly, she shows us the ways it has burrowed ever more insistently into the places where it hides: racism lies coiled inside our families and intimate contacts, even among our political allies, living in the places where we take our pleasure. This is seductive and fiercely challenging, groundbreaking work." — Kathryn Bond Stockton, author of Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where "Black" Meets "Queer"

"Sharon Patricia Holland's brilliant, provocative study challenges cultural theory by galvanizing a bold new conversation about the too-familiar realities of racism as manifest through everyday 'erotic' attachments, capaciously defined. As the book pointedly tracks the personal, bodily, familial, generational, institutional, and symbolic vectors of desire as implicated in racist ways of being, it brings into refocus concerns—such as biology, touch, hate and love speech, blood relations, the forbidden, violence, miscegenation, liberal guilt and blame—that powerfully address the persistent pull of racism's ordinariness in a culture that ostensibly desires to move beyond race. This is next-wave feminism, queer studies, and race theory at their best." — Marlon B. Ross, author of Manning the Race: Reforming Black Men in the Jim Crow Era


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sharon Patricia Holland is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. She is the author of Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and Black Subjectivity and the coeditor of Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: The Last Word on Racism 1

1. Race: There's No Place like "Beyond" 17

2. Desire, or "A Bit of the Other" 41

3. S.H.E.: Reproducing Discretion as the Better Part of (Queer) Valor 65

Conclusion: Racism's Last Word 95

Notes 115

Bibliography 147

Index 161
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5206-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5195-5
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