Siobhan B. Somerville
Central argument of the book: “It was not merely a historical coincidence that the classification of bodies as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” emerged at the same time that the United States was aggressively constructing and policing the boundary between “black” and “white” bodies.
In the introduction, Somerville indicates that her methodology comes from queer studies and that her theoretical apparatus is rooted in African-American studies and lesbian/gay studies. Through a brief discussion of the arguments that she builds in the book, I want to examine her methodology and consider the theoretical apparati at work in her book.
- 1.Scientific Racism and the Invention of the Homosexual Body
- 2.The Queer Career of Jim Crow
- 3.Inverting the Tragic Mulatta Tradition
- 4.Doubles Lives on the Color Line
- 5.“Queer to Myself as I am to You”
Some overall things we can think about in this text:
- 1.Selection of materials for analysis and particularly how she puts different material into dialogue with each other.
- 2.Organizational schema which is broadly temporal and progressive, but less nuanced in relationship to time than say Wolcott.
- 3.How Somerville is using the words sexuality, sexual orientation, race, invert, mulatto in different places of the text.
- 4.Is the overall argument well-done and convincing? What has she left out or elided to produce her analysis?
Siobhan B. Somerville
- 1.What are the strengths and weaknesses of the selections of materials and methods of analysis that Somerville uses? How does she integrate literary texts as a site for historical analysis? Is this “literary historiography” compelling?
- 2.In some ways Somerville's project is similar to Wolcott's project in that both are writing an intersectional analysis that positions marginalized people in relationship to dominant discourses. Wolcott is writing about black women in regard to respectability in interwar Detroit and Somerville is writing about the interrelated construction of sexuality and race at the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, the books are quite different. How does comparing the two books further illuminate each?
- 3.Is the analysis that Somerville mobilizes an “intersectional analysis” as articulated by Dill, Collins, Nash, and McCall? In what ways does it fulfill that vision and in what ways does it confound it?
- 4.Somerville and Halberstam are both literary scholars and both Queering the Color Line and Female Masculinity include close readings as key parts of their overall arguments. In what ways do the analysis of each resonate together? In what ways do they differ? Are Somerville and Halberstam constructing sexuality in consonant ways?
- 5.Somerville makes an interesting move at the end of the book in her reading of Stone Butch Blues that works to point to contemporary applications of her analysis. What do we make of that? Is it compelling?
- 6.Robyn Wiegman in the chapter “Sexing the Difference” takes many of the same sources as Somerville yet she mobilizes a different analysis which centers the emergence of “blacks and women” and the feminist response of centering “black women” as a response to this cultural/discursive conundrum. What do we make of Wiegman’s analysis in light of Somerville and vice versa?
- 7.Queering the Color Line seems to have received only consistent laudatory reviews. The only thing reviewers mentioned is that at times the analysis didn't go far enough with fond hopes that Somerville and others would continue this work. What new possibilities for historical writing and research does Queering the Color Line open? What sorts of projects would be in sympathy with the arguments that Somerville makes?