C. Riley Snorton is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. A reception follows the talk.
The black church is often understood as a birthplace and hotbed for “down-low activities.” The frequent pairing of the down low—a term that typically refers to black men who have sex with men and women and do not identify as gay, bisexual, or queer—and the black church in popular culture is not simply another titillating, if seemingly banal, coupling of the secular and the sacred. Part of what makes the down low terrifyingly captivating as a cultural narrative is the idea that these figures cannot control their sexual yearnings, regardless of their educational status, economic standing, or spiritual convictions. Resisting a paranoid reading of the relationship between the down low and the black church as signs, this talk practices a form of reparative analysis that in certain theological and philosophical contexts might be described as syncretism. Drawing on an eclectic archive of representations, including news, memoirs, church statements, and media scandals as well as pop cultural iterations, the talk examines Bishop Eddie Long’s sexual scandal, the figure of the church choir or music director, and the discourses that surround and constitute them. As I suggest, the point is not whether Bishop Eddie Long or the choir directors are gay, but rather how blackness inflects public speculation about queer duplicitousness.
C. Riley Snorton is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. Snorton’s research and teaching focuses on black cultural production, queer theory and transgender studies. He has published in Hypatia, Souls, the International Journal of Communication as well as numerous edited volumes including, Transgender Migrations, Homofiles, and Passing/ Out. Snorton’s first book, Nobody is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low traces the emergence and circulation of the “down low” in news and popular cultures at the turn of the twenty first century and will be available March 1, 2014 from the University of Minnesota Press.
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