"'I Cruise a Black Maze': Black Visuality, Queer Disorientation, and the Siting of Risk"

In queer studies, spaces for public sex often serves as architectures of liberation—bastions against the onslaught of deadly homophobic antagonisms. This talk considers the ways in which black lesbian film and black gay poetry navigate and imagine these spaces—considered dangerous vectors of HIV transmission by the state and some liberal LGBTQ political actors. By considering artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s short experimental video The Labyrinth 1.0 (2017), the semi-autobiographical poetry of Essex Hemphill, and the photography of London-based South Asian photographer Sunil Gupta, I claim the disorientations produced by inhabiting blackness in white space and gendered difference in gay male space as productive models for the engagement and critique of queer pleasure. These works argue for a potentially agential navigation of queer space and racialized forms of sexual risk-taking.

Speaker Bio

Jamal Batts, PhD is a scholar, writer, and curator. He completed his doctoral work in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. His dissertation, Immoral Panics: Black Queer Aesthetics and the Construction of Risk, reflects on the relation between black queer contemporary art and the intricacies of sexual risk. He is a 2020 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, a ONE National Lesbian and Gay Archives LGBTQ Research Fellow, and a 2020 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Scholar-in-Residence. With the curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic, he organized four seasons of black experimental film screenings and produced three edited volumes. He is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Irvine and the first Curator-in-Residence in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. His writing appears in numerous publications.

Sponsored by the UCR Gender & Sexuality Studies Department Speaker Series and Center for Ideas & Society


Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 1:00pm to 2:00pm

Virtual Event
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Lectures & Presentations


General Public

Center for Ideas & Society


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