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Six times a year, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering specially commissioned featured essays, photographic essays, and a selected list of articles that will further guide the reader.The latest Focus On looks at the African American experience in Appalachia.
In a December 2012 essay in the , titled “Who’s Afraid of Black Sexuality?
,” the writer Stacey Patton suggests that for a long time, scholars, including black scholars, have avoided mentioning the word “sex,” let alone discussing it openly.
The following entries have been selected to help guide readers who want to understand more about the history of the African American experience in Appalachia.
“Sexuality,” the word and concept, emerges out of discourses that have produced both problematic and useful ways to understand black sexuality in all its complexities, contradictions, and expansiveness.
The artists included in SAAM’s collection powerfully evoke themes both universal and specific to the African American experience.
Many reflect the tremendous social and political change that occurred from the early Republic to the Civil War, through the rise of industry, the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance, the post-war years, the Civil Rights movement to present day questions of self and society.But, while Foucault also highlights the double impetus of power and pleasure embedded in Western constructs of sexuality, the genealogies he relies on are derived from Western regimes of knowledge. (Black English Dictionary), there are multiple terms that connote sexuality, all of them heterogeneous and requiring more context rather than a linear symmetrical history.For black people, however, the formation of sexuality does not rest solely on a foundation of Greco/Roman/European histories of sexuality, the “objectivity” of the sciences, or Christian dogma. In addition, research on sexuality has compelled African American studies to redefine and expand its premise as an intellectual field foundationally situated as a linear, unilateral project based on the biological and sociological constructs of race and racialization.From an important grouping of recently acquired works by self-taught artist Bill Traylor to William H.Johnson’s vibrant portrayals of faith and family, to Mickalene Thomas’s contemporary exploration of black female identity, the museum’s holdings reflect its long-standing commitment to black artists and the acquisition, preservation, and display of their works.In its most common understanding, sexuality is the quality of being sexual or possessing sex; it is understood as what one does in terms of sex acts and practices and who one is, often (inadequately) defined as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual (Burgett 2007).Sexuality can be best understood, conceptually, as a category that entails desire, pleasure, practice, and more that interact with each other in complicated and often contradictory ways.African Americans may have assimilated into such histories, but when resistance to a universal experience of sexuality has been waged, black people relied on the culture, language, and representations produced in their own communities to correct the gaps and errors produced by history of sexuality. In many ways, African American studies remains somewhat ambivalent about sexuality, specifically because the discourses surrounding it cannot be separated from colonial and imperialist legacies.And although African Americans live at the intersections of race, class, and sexuality, ironically, scholarship on black sexuality in African American studies has developed on two contentious and disparate terrains that intend to define, control, and represent discourses on black sexuality in the field and in black culture and politics.including paintings by Sister Gertrude Morgan and Bill Traylor.In addition, SAAM contains key works by Benny Andrews, John Biggers, Thornton Dial, Sr., Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, and Alma Thomas.