Black Queer Freedom

"Black Queer Freedom presents the argument that queerness, meaning same-sex desire and gender nonconformity, does introduce the threat of injury, but artists throughout the Black diaspora use queer desire to negotiate spaces of injury . . . Throughout, this book demonstrates how desire is understood to be a space of freedom as well as a strategy that redefines space."

GerShun Avilez, Introduction, Black Queer Freedom

In this thorough and evocative monograph, GerShun Avilez explores how Black queer subjects’ immense vulnerability due to their perception as a threat. Avilez argues that Black queer subjects exist in a space of injury, in which they are perpetually seen as a threat to society and therefore met with violence and injury. Speaking to the social, physical, and economic consequences of this predicament, Avilez notes how Black queer artists employ desire to navigate this space of injury, making new meaning despite the threat of harm. Turning to the work of artists to expand his theory, Avilez demonstrates how Black queer artists and their cultural productions can insist on modes of freedom even from within space of restrictions and threat. The author turns to Black queer articulations of desire as a defiant and necessary strategy for finding freedom even within spaces of restriction.

Moving both with the trouble of precarity and away from its all-consuming grasp, Avilez demonstrates the worldbuilding practices of Black queer artists. Even within spaces of violence and vulnerability, expressions of desire have the potential to create something else. Activations of desire allow Black queer subjects to redefine the space of injury, and reshaping space can be seen as a process of Black queer worldmaking. The desire for freedom of expression, self-determination, satisfaction are all indicators of the Black queer artist’s desire for another world. Art, desire, and imagination coalesce to insist on something more than the space of injury and the conditions of vulnerability. Desire reaches beyond these constraints even as it is hemmed in by them, but there is something powerful and of immeasurable value in the attempt itself.