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Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame

Shame, Kathryn Bond Stockton argues in Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame, has often been a meeting place for the signs "black" and "queer" and for black and queer people-overlapping groups who have been publicly marked as degraded and debased. But when and why have certain forms of shame been embraced by blacks and queers? How does debasement foster attractions? How is it used for aesthetic delight? What does it offer for projects of sorrow and ways of creative historical knowing? How and why is it central to camp? Stockton engages the domains of African American studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, film theory, photography, semiotics, and gender studies. She brings together thinkers rarely, if ever, read together in a single study-James Baldwin, Radclyffe Hall, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eldridge Cleaver, Todd Haynes, Norman Mailer, Leslie Feinberg, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino-and reads them with and against major theorists, including Georges Bataille, Sigmund Freud, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, and Leo Bersani. Stockton asserts that there is no clear, mirrored relation between the terms "black" and "queer"; rather, seemingly definitive associations attached to each are often taken up or crossed through by the other. Stockton explores dramatic switchpoints between these terms: the stigmatized "skin" of some queers' clothes, the description of blacks as an "economic bottom," the visual force of interracial homosexual rape, the complicated logic of so-called same-sex miscegenation, and the ways in which a famous depiction of slavery (namely, Morrison's Beloved) seems bound up with depictions of AIDS. All of the thinkers Stockton considers scrutinize the social nature of shame as they examine the structures that make debasements possible, bearable, pleasurable, and creative, even in their darkness.
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An investigation of the role of shame in mediating between the signs "black" and "queer."

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix Introduction Embracing Shame: "Black" and "Queer" in Debasement 1 1. Cloth Wounds, or When Queers Are Martyred to Clothes: Debasements of a Fabricated Skin 39 2. Bottom Values: Anal Economics in the History of Black Neighborhoods 67 3. When Are Dirty Details and Scenes Compelling? Tucked in the Cuts of Interracial Anal Rape 101 4. Erotic Corpse: Homosexual Miscegenation and the Decomposition of Attraction 149 5. Prophylactics and Brains: Slavery in the Cybernetic Age of AIDS 177 Conclusion: Dark Camp: Behind and Ahead 205 Notes 223 Bibliography 257 Index 265

About the Author

Kathryn Bond Stockton is Professor of English and Director of Gender Studies at the University of Utah. She is the author of God Between Their Lips: Desire Between Women in Irigaray, Bronte, and Eliot.


"Kathryn Bond Stockton refuses clumsy, outmoded distinctions between racial and sexual 'minorities.' Instead, in Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame she boldly examines those many places in our culture where shame, debasement, humiliation, and abjection draw together the black and the queer. At the same time, she carefully details the ways in which these sites of negative emotion and affect have been utilized by American artists and intellectuals to produce work that is not only compelling but often stunningly beautiful. Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame is the type of work for which so many of us have yearned."--Robert F. Reid-Pharr, author of Black Gay Man "Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame is an exciting, pointed, splendidly written, culturally important book."--Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, author of Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity

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