Author (Your Name)

Michael Cobb, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Religious Studies Dept.


Debra Campbell


The notion of a "natural," unitary subject is often the discursive "departure" point for various politics of identity. Yet, such politics' uncritical approaches to the intrinsic dynamics of identification are dangerous-especially for movements that are striving for political and/or religious liberation from the patriarchal, racist, capitalistic, and heterosexist biases framing our Western culture. In my Senior Scholars, I create a dialogue between two theoretical discourses that utilize identity, in divergent ways, for their representational politics. More specifically, the dynamic and ground-breaking discourse of womanist theologians, who use gender, class, and race experiences of women of African decent as the material and direction for their theologies, tacitly deny an affirmative and pervasive lesbian and bisexual presence inside their theoretical community. I believe that this omission reflects larger cultural biases over and against nonheterosexual peoples. Consequently, in my opinion, womanist theologians risk reducing the womanist identity into a politics that excludes, rather than includes, women of color who do not fit a regulatory notion of what it means to be a straight womanist and although womanists like Union Doctoral Candidate Renee Hill have raised this issue of sexuality exclusion, the call to "transform" heterosexist biases still remains an unscrutinized problem: a thorough examination of most womanists' published articles and books, it is apparent that womanist theologians still seem hesitant to write about (or even provide space for others to write about) the unique, but oppressed, experiences of nonheterosexual womanists. This exclusion has led me to the writings of womanist theologians on "one hand" and lesbian, bisexual, and gay peoples on the "other." Through an exploration of identity from a more sexualized epistemological approach, I hope to reveal how identity is a complex convergence of linguistic and political forces-especially inside of a theological genre of discourse. By contrasting emerging "queer" theories and womanist theologies, I hope I elucidate how identity becomes nonnative and abusive through its exclusions - especially given the adverse context of Western Christian homophobia and heterosexism. Subjectivity, indeed, is constructed through racialized, classed, gendered, sexualized, (among others) social locations that are not easily, and readily, reduced into essential and discrete categories of representation. I do not wish to vilify the empowering (for some) and historically-rich womanist theological community; instead, I hope to contribute to the growing womanist "garden" with more cautious, flexible, and inclusive notions of subjectivity. I also offer a potential political paradigm using the dynamics of fictional discourse which can emphasize the fluid, real, but not definitive, qualities of a particular identity. (I use Nella Larsen's novel, Passing, as a particular example of how ambiguously identity functions.) A fiction of identity could potentially create a less-fixed non-fictional, subjective position, thereby providing room for many people to occupy, leave, and recreate the same, and other, representational space. I also explore how the fiction of identity becomes more compatible for various identity political movements desiring coalition. Quite interestingly, I, too, become a major component of the study. My identity is not immune or invisible from my criticism and revision of subjectivity. I hope to avoid what Queer theorist Eve Sedgwick calls "the one-directionality" of academic scholarship. My identity, my own "fiction," is invested in the text, thereby forcing my problematic authorship (I am white, male, often-heterosexual, and affluent) to be attentive, appreciative, and responsible to the discourses of people with whom I do not explicitly identify.


Queer Sexuality, Identity, Womanist Theology


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