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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Black Looks: Race and Representation

Book: Black Looks: Race and Representation
Written by: Bell Hooks
Published by: South End Press, 1992

‘Black Looks: Race and Representation’ by Bell Hooks, comprises twelve essays that delve into exploring the intricate relationship between race and representation. With her sharp mind and eloquent writing, the author unravels the personal and political repercussions of contemporary representations of ethnicity and race within the culture of white supremacy. For Hooks, “As a radical intervention, we must develop revolutionary attitudes about race and representation…The essays in Black Looks are meant to challenge and unsettle, to disrupt and subvert” (p.7).

In the first chapter, ‘Loving Blackness as Political Resistance,’ drawing from Nella Larson’s novel ‘Passing’, Hooks discusses how the character, Clare, truly desires “blackness” by declaring that she would rather live for the rest of her life as a poor black woman in Harlem than as a rich white matron downtown.

The author also raises concerns about how blackness has been commodified thus becoming a selling point in pop culture in cultural shows and films such as ‘Harlem Nights’, ‘Heart Condition’, and others. Hooks states that “those progressive white intellectuals who are particularly critical of “essentialist” notions of identity when writing about mass culture, race, and gender have not focused their critiques on white identity and the way essentialism informs representations of whiteness. It is always the non-white or in some cases the non-heterosexual other, who is guilty of essentialism” (p.30). In the chapter titled, ‘Selling Hot Pussy: Representations of Black Female Sexuality,’ Hooks observes that, Popular culture provides countless examples of black female appropriation and exploitation of “negative stereotypes” to either assert control over the representation or at least reap the benefits of it. Since black female sexuality has been represented in racist/sexist iconography as more free and liberated, many black women singers, irrespective of the quality of their voices. have cultivated an image which suggests they are sexually available and licentious.” (p.61)

Black Looks- Race and Representation