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Introduction
against the closet
Racial Logic and the Bodily Basis/Biases of Sexual Identity
[The] erotic . . . [is] our deepest knowledge, a power that, unlike other
spheres of power, we all have access to and that can lessen the threat of our
individual di√erence.
—Gina Dent, Black Popular Culture
I envision a politics where one’s relation to power, and not some homoge-
nized identity, is privileged in determining one’s political comrades. I am
talking about a politics where the nonnormative and marginal position of
punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens, for example, is the basis for pro-
gressive transformative coalition work.
—Cathy J. Cohen, ‘‘Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens’’
Gayness . . . exist[s] under the mask(s) of blackness.
—Sharon Patricia Holland, Raising the Dead
Like many researchers of African American identity and U.S. expressive cul-
ture, I had hoped to produce a straightforward examination of blackness—an
abstract racial designation as elemental and vital as blood, as socially for-
mative as nationhood. I wanted to trace the making and meaning of a racial
identity that is clearly mere theorization, ideological innovation, and yet terri-
bly potent in its ability to make its meaning manifest in the ‘‘real’’ world
through myriad denigrating social, material, and psychological e√ects on mil-
lions of black Americans. I wanted to explore blackness’s essence, its fungi-
bility, its nothingness, and the sheer weight of its possession. But for so many
reasons I found this to be an impossible task, especially without bringing to
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