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Extravagant AbjectionBlackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination$
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Darieck Scott

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814740941

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814740941.001.0001

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The Occupied Territory

The Occupied Territory

Homosexuality and History in Amiri Baraka’s Black Arts

(p.172) 4 The Occupied Territory
Extravagant Abjection

Darieck Scott

NYU Press

This chapter focuses primarily on Black Arts Movement intellectual LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka and his semi-autobiographical novel The System of Dante's Hell (1965) and essays that appear in the collection Home (1966). It also engages with Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice (1968). Jones and Cleaver frequently use rape as an arguably “queer” political trope. For them, rape gestures explicitly or implicitly toward the experience of slavery and viscerally represents the historical injustice of white supremacist practices. Thus, rape is presented as historically constitutive of the political and existential condition of blackness. However, their macho attempt to incite rage and to rally against the external enemy forces them to discard the most radical and humanist elements of blackness that Fanon identifies: the characters (and/or the narrative authority) often accede to an ostensibly liberated black wholeness by dismissing the nonmasculine, queer implications of a history characterized by the complex psychic devastations and compromises that result from institutionalized sexual domination. Yet it is the very queerness of this past—the threatened dissolution of fixed boundaries between genders, races, sexualities, and even subjectivities experienced perforce in such a history of sexual domination—that endows blackness with the protean qualities that make it a powerful vehicle for imagining freedom in these texts.

Keywords:   homosexuality, Black Arts, black male rapist, rape, LeRoi Jones, Amiri Baraka, Eldridge Cleaver, blackness

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