bell hook's fourth book crosses disciplinary boundaries in major debates on postmodern theory, cultural criticism, and the politics of race and gender. She values postmodernism's insights while warning that the fashionable infatuation with "discourse" about "difference" is dangerously detachable from the struggle we must all wage against racism, sexism, and cultural imperialism.
bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) was an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern female perspective, she addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.
Elogio del margine è una raccolta di dieci saggi scritti da bell hooks (pseudonimo di Gloria Jean Watkins) che trattano i temi più disparati, ma che hanno in comune l'analisi critica dell'autrice rispetto a questioni come il razzismo e/o il sessismo. Quello che mi ha colpita molto di questo saggio, oltre ai contenuti stimolanti, è stata la capacità di hooks di analizzare diverse tematiche da più punti di vista contemporaneamente: ella infatti riesce a delineare perfettamente l'influenza di razzismo, sessismo, capitalismo e suprematismo bianco in ogni campo. Ad esempio, quando cita il delitto di una donna bianca per mano di un gruppo di ragazzi neri, hooks illustra in che modo razzismo e sessismo siano coinvolti, sebbene molti personaggi importanti che discussero di ciò non avessero affatto accennato a questa dualità. Il tipo di analisi dell'autrice di questi fenomeni sociali è anche l'esempio di come si possano apprezzare prodotti culturali che derivano dalla società capitalista e suprematista tramite uno sguardo critico, cosa che lei e molte persone nere (principalmente donne) hanno dovuto imparare a fare per non rifiutare ogni prodotto culturale derivante dalla "parte oppressiva". Tutto ciò è inoltre descritto con una terminologia accessibile, sebbene alcuni saggi siano stati per me più difficili da afferrare e altri invece li ho trovati comprensibili e illuminanti.
Quello che mi è rimasto da questa lettura è sicuramente l'importanza dell'ascolto. Le persone marginalizzate (per razza, sesso, orientamento sessuale ecc.) lo sono perché non è concesso loro il giusto spazio e la giusta rappresentazione, di conseguenza non si conosce ciò che hanno da dire, che è in realtà il punto di partenza per un dialogo su di loro e soprattutto con loro. Questo breve saggio è davvero un libro da consultare e leggere più volte, perché contiene tanti spunti di riflessione e apre molto la mente. Se chiunque si prendesse poche ore della propria vita per leggerlo il mondo sarebbe indubbiamente un posto migliore.
I suspect that this would be a tricky book to review at the best of times – and these are not the best of times for trying to appraise a radical black feminist writer talking about the system of white supremacy in the post-Civil-Rights United States of America. I recall that I purchased this book for a class around the time it was published, but didn’t wind up reading it until five or six years later (I think it wound up dropped from the class for time, not that I failed to do the assigned reading, but I can’t remember now). When I did read it, what I recall striking me was her descriptions of the “beautiful chocolate faces” of her family that appeared in some of the semi-autobiographical reflections. So far as I can recall, I had never seen non-white faces described with such affection, even in the writings of black authors, and that made an argument more powerful than some of her most articulate statements about the nature of racism in American culture.
This may also have been one of the first heavily theoretical postmodernist texts I read, and although it certainly confused me at times, I would have to say that it made a good introduction because hooks is always careful to link the theoretical approach she takes to practical solutions and the real lives of people. She brings herself to the text in a very profound way, as the above observations would suggest, always foregrounding her lived experiences in her analysis, and arguing that these “subjective biases” are precisely what gives her insights their validity. As such, it is inevitable that readers will disagree with at least some of what she says, but they will also have a chance to learn from the processes, especially about their own biases and lived experiences.
This book probably deserves a more careful re-read than I gave it in preparation for this review, but I will close by saying that each page I looked at was a delightful experience of re-discovery, that there are many things I had forgotten, and that the book contains the gamut of emotions for me, but first and foremost communicates the yearning of people to be allowed to be themselves without fear or shame.
A must-read for grad students and undergrads alike (doubly so for those in English, Black and/or African American studies programs, and in education programs). Written from a critical lens that does an excellent job attending to the intersection of Blackness and femininity (or experiences linked to womanhood and gender overall) in U.S. (IMO, more historically than contemporarily). It reads at points like a memoir, but never loses its value as a critical lens, with each "chapter" being on a particular topic related to the experiences/perspectives of bell hooks.
Read this text in both a literature survey course focused on Black female writers (primarily U.S. writers) and in literary criticism (where it was under-utilized and/or not sufficiently used by instructor). Highly, highly recommend!
"Such appropriation happens again and again. It takes the form of constructing African-American culture as though it exists solely to suggest new aesthetic and political directions white folks might move in."
"Until black men can face the reality that sexism empowers them despite the impact of racism in their lives, it will be difficult to engage in meaningful dialogue about gender. Listening to black men talk about their social reality, one often hears narratives of victimization. Even very successful black men will talk about their lives as though racism is denying them access to forms of power they cannot even describe, that seems almost mythic. Seeing themselves solely as victioms, or potential victims, they may be blind to all that they have accomplished. This is not unlike the self-perception of many privileged white women within feminist movement who were so determined to create awareness of the ways they were victimized that they could not accept any analysis of their experience that was more complex, that showed the forms of power they maintained even in the face of sexist exploitation-- class and race privilege."
"Contemporary intellectuals committed to progressive politics must be reminded again and again that the capacity to name something (particularly in writing terms like aesthetic, postmodernism, dconstruction, etc.) is not synonymous with creation or ownership of the condition or circumstance to which such terms may refer."
"Their responses raised again the issue of whether irony alone can be used to promote critical consciousness. It seems to pre-suppose a politically conscious viewer, one who can see both what is being shown and what is not."
While I had previously read a couple of these essays in anthologies before, the bulk of this book was new to me. And alas, it could be the consummate bell hooks experience. This is an extremely balanced collection of essays whose content was both affirming of many of the thoughts I'd already been harboring and challenging me to go even further. Yearning proves the extent bell hooks has had on me as an educator, a thinker, and a feminist.
I also strongly recommend hooks' video, Cultural Criticism and Transformation, which I remember watching so many years ago and now can be found on youtube.
It's astonishing, really, that I got to this point in my life without reading bell hooks. These essays are funny, incisive, and surprisingly timely for being twenty-five years old. I especially enjoyed her reflections on Malcolm X as specifically a religious seeker, which I'll assign whenever I next teach the Autobiography, and her critiques of Do The Right Thing and Der Himmel über Berlin, which I wish I'd read after I saw the movies in high school.
Have wanted to read Hooks at the recommendation of a co-worker and this was the only title available from my local library. It is the only book I've read by her, which might suggest I'm not the intended audience. Perhaps it is meant by those who have read all her other work and are looking for something more.
Having read most of the essays here, I don't have a very strong positive impression. These essays are all on different topics and all seem to have been provoked by some event in Hooks' life. Sometimes it might be an experience at a conference, or a conversation with a colleague, or a visit home, or the rejection of something she had written. Often she is calling for someone to give more consideration to an issue she has noticed.
Sometimes I found what she had to say interesting, especially when she spoke most personally or drew on her own experiences growing up. The bits about her quilt-making grandmother and growing up with six sisters were interesting.
But often I found her writing to be tiresomely mired in the rhetorical muck of academic progressives. Sentences like " Unless we remain ever vigilant about the ways representations of black womanhood (especially those of successful individuals) are appropriated and exploited in white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, we may find ourselves falling into traps set by the dominant culture" as she writes in "Third World Diva Girls". There is a lot of that sort of tiresome rhetoric that I remember so well from other texts read in grad school.
It may be that Hooks essays in this book, coming from decades ago, were influential and groundbreaking at the time, but they don't seem very essential now.
it feels weird to rate this book because of how vast the subject matter is. but I did thoroughly enjoy my first ever bell hooks book. This book was written in the 90s, and the stuff she says is actually revolutionary. This book was really hard to get into, and took some big brain moments but it was worth it. Funnily enough a lot of what we went over in my AP Lit (Coleman) class she referenced, so I felt kinda smart. My fav essays included an interview w bell hooks by Gloria Watkins, a final yearning, black women and men, counter hegemonic: do the right thing, choosing the margin, an aesthetic of blackness, the chitlin circuit. Her critique of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was super eye opening too,, I could say more about it but I absolutely loved this intro to bell hooks
Okay wait I can say more, this was also my first real postmodernist book and it was super intriguing
Politics of location constrain people into distinct positions such as race, class, and gender, and politics of articulation, correspondingly, sets the ideology by which to function and recount alternative voices, and “negotiate one’s political self” (hooks, 1990, p. 191).
The positionality of being on the margin can therefore bring forth new alternatives – and can work toward shifting the status quo (hooks, 1990). It is in marginalization where diverse identities emerge; in moving from object and subject; from stable and moving – being on the margin, in other words, can bring forth new ways of imagining, and being (hooks, 1990).
Another wonderful anthology by bell hooks. I picked this one up originally because a) I hadn't read it and b) I needed a voice of wisdom and thoughtfulness at the time. It took me some time to get through it, but I did. Some of the essays I got right into and really spoke to me. Others I had a hard time with. Though, honestly, I don't think there's an essay in here without pencil marks. hooks always has keen insights into culture, politics, race, and feminism. She's a bedrock author for me. Her critical engagement on so many different topics, yet all related, is amazing. She is brilliant and you should read her.
I just feel like whatever discourse emerging these days are not something new. bell hooks’ essays in this book are the proofs for that. Say for example, in the current nihilism tied to climate change discourse mostly asserted by white people within their white privilege, bell hooks worded it as an “ignorance, such pervasive feelings of powerlessness which take away our power to protest, to organize.” While she did not write it as a response to climate change issues due to the era when she wrote this book, her critique of nihilism towards critical stance against the system is still somewhat valid. This is one of many reasons I will continue reading bell hooks.
This was a challenge book for me - I don't read a lot of longer form essays. I learned so much. I thank Angela Romero to recommending this to me. The struggles our society has put black women through. SMH. This was a non-fiction for me, with the fiction I am reading, from black women.
bell hooks escreve com a simplicidade necessária de quem se interessa em passar a mensagem acima de tudo. algumas partes são repetitivas ou longas demais. mas tudo que ela escreve movimenta e isso é brilhante.
bell hooks is so great. i'm glad i took six months to finish this book. i was able to spend time with it. it's a good book to spend time with, and now that i'm finished, i have a reading list and i want to read more of bell hooks' books.
I wept because of what I read, and then I wept because there are so many worlds to explore, and I will never visit them, or get more than a passing acquaintance with them. And yet they are so very real, and so very important. Much more important than I am.
One of the strengths of Yearning for a reader new to the subject (though one moderately familiar with critical theory and the outline of at least parts of some versions of American history) is that it flits around, both between and within chapters, combining intensely personal reminiscences with film criticism, spotlights on institutional racism, the home, history, resistance, addiction, community, power, etc. To me this style was a breath of fresh air.
Just a few of the interesting ideas...
Much was left undone by Civil Rights activists in the 60s because of sexism: 'Insistence on patriarchal values, on equating black liberation with black men gaining access to male privilege that would enable them to assert power over black women, was one of the most significant forces undermining radical struggle' (p.16).
Under the present system of racial integration she notes that different (in terms of place and/or class?) black people are victimised by the white supremacist society in different ways, and laments that many are interested only in their middle class privileges or in earning more money [as so many people are, regardless of race or class...]. Freedom for black people in America should not simply be measured by how often we can make individualistic choices or satisfy personal desires (p.37).
Critique of Spike Lee's "Do the right thing", from various angles. I found particularly compelling her definition of commercialised: there is something for everyone. Smug whites can be pleased they are not as racist as the whites in the film; middle class blacks can be grateful because they have escaped that kind of neighbourhood but still feel authentic because they enjoy cultural products from the black underclass; the underclass can temporarily feel proud that a major film has taken them as its subject... (pp.180-185)
The epilogue, a transcript of a discussion with another important left-progressive black Christian scholar, Cornel West, was fascinating. Hearing of their struggles in the academy, and their struggles with black despair, and the corrosive power of middle class lifestyles, I couldn't help but think of those young minority scholars I know here in the Northern Capital - they have to an extent "made it" in a racialised environment reeking of class and ethnic prejudice, and gained a measure of acceptance, but in this Han chauvinist culture they find that they cannot rent decent flats in the big city, cannot get jobs if their research has touched upon questions considered "sensitive", cannot publish much of their work, cannot ever return to their families should they decide to emigrate...
Escaping prejudice and living out freedom and true humanity is denied to so many. What part do I play in constructing such a world, and in profiting from such inequalities? These are questions most of us would, I suspect, like me, prefer not to answer.
bell hooks is amazing. In this books, as with all her others, she engages social and political issues of our time through a lens of experience and wisdom. I heard her speak and felt like she was a woman I could learn from for fifty years and she'd still have things to teach me. Read her books, people.
"bell hook's fourth book crosses disciplinary boundaries in major debates on postmodern theory, cultural criticism, and the politics of race and gender. She values postmodernism's insights while warning that the fashionable infatuation with "discourse" about "difference" is dangerously detachable from the struggle we must all wage against racism, sexism, and cultural imperialism."
Como dice bell hooks, en la mejor práctica radical posmodernista, una política de las diferencias incorporará los valores y las voces de los desplazados, los marginales, los explotados y los oprimidos.
I have a copy of this book from the mid-90s, when my friend D and I decided to read all of bell hooks' work all in a row, and I wrote a book of my own in the margins of it. I love looking at what I thought of it then.