"We knew to stay in our lane!" : southern black women’s politics of belonging and (dis)belonging

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2018-05

Authors

Crawford, Madyson M.

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Abstract

Black women’s existences have been relegated to the margins since the transatlantic slave trade. In response, storytelling has served as a site for black women to produce and pass along knowledge: folktales, testimonies, family origin stories, and cautionary tales emerge as spaces to push back against discourse that erases and warps their existences and experiences and create anew. In this project I employ storytelling as a methodology to understand and follow black women’s mapping processes of their belongings and (dis)belongings. To do so, I interview ten older southern black women from a small black neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Older southern black women have been and are embodied histories and gatekeepers of their families and communities and my research shows that, in light and in spite of the devaluation and marginalization of their worldview the centuries long practice of knowledge production being positioned as an objective scientific institution, they are producing knowledge through their own personal experiences and stories. And they pass these along to each other and their communities. Theirs is an example of embodied knowledges and theory-making that decenters white western ideas of epistemologies. These stories speak to politics of belonging and (dis)belonging or the negotiations black women participate in to map and secure boundaries within the racist-sexist framework they are forced to exist within. This work engages with and extends black feminist epistemologies, feminist geographies, and black women’s geographies by exploring how black women theorize and engage with and produce physical space: their neighborhood, their homes, their schools, and those around them, through stories they tell and stories they remember being told to them

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