A number of people have assisted my efforts to confront the formal,
ideological, and ontological challenges I faced during the process of
this book's composition. lowe a special debt to my friends and
colleagues at the University of Michigan, where this project had its
genesis. For discussing, among other things, issues relevant to the
academic discourses with which this book is most directly con-
literary; cultural, and feminist studies-
and for encouraging me despite our shared doubts about what I
hoped to accomplish, I want especially to thank Julie Ellison, Lin-
coln Faller, Chris Flint, Anne Herrmann, Michelle Johnson, Robin
Kelley, Marjorie Levinson, Earl Lewis, Athena Vrettos, and Patsy
Yaeger. I'm especially grateful to Anita Norich, who read a draft of
an earlier version of the manuscript and helped me to rediscover its
purpose and potential significance. The opportunity during the fall
to interact with a stellar interdisciplinary group, the Black
Gender Studies Faculty Seminar, confirmed the importance of the
sort of gendered and racialized self-inquiry I was interested in offer-
ing. From that group, I'd like to thank Elsa Barkley Brown and
Marlon Ross in particular for what I hope all of us found an inspirit-
ing collaboration. And for making my three years as Director of the
Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (when the bulk of this
manuscript was drafted) more pleasant and infinitely less stressful
than I dreamed possible, I am indebted to Gerri Brewer, Tammy
Davis, Camille Spencer, and Evans Young.
I completed this book in Philadelphia during what the great
B singer Donny Hathaway once called "tryin' times." For help-
ing me to cope, I want to thank Howard Arnold, Houston Baker, Jeff
Bedrick, Henry Louis Gates, Tresa Grauer, Farah Griffin, Sharon
Holland, Peter Kuriloff, E. Daniel Larkin, Dan Lebowitz, Vicky
Mahaffey, Nellie McKay, Elsa Ramsden, and Ira Schwartz. Special
thanks to Nicole Brittingham Furlonge and Claire Satlof, whose
selfless devotion buoyed my spirits. Also, Henrietta Stephens as-
sisted me with the preparation of the final version of this manu-
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