Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud

Committee Members

Michelle Commander, Gichingiri Ndigirigi, Patrick Grzanka


Queer black authors use locality as a strategy for incorporating difference into the definitions of a national or communal identity. Rather than universalizing the concept of tolerance or assimilating into hateful practices, these writers respond to anti-gay atmospheres by positioning themselves and other LGBT black citizens as integral to nation-building efforts. This conscious attempt to empower the minority makes the texts activist in nature. Furthermore, the activist effects of these literatures complement advocacy groups that strive to support LGBT populations in the same areas. Tendai Huchu’s Hairdresser of Harare (Zimbabwe), Nkunzi Nkabinde’s Black Bull, Ancestors and Me (South Africa), Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (America), and Dee Rees’ film Pariah (America) serve as examples of various modes of this literary activism. The intellectual goal for this project is to destabilize the normative victim narrative attached to most analyses of queer black literature and to understand the agency that accompanies racial and sexual representations.

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