In his talk on Friday Yichiro Onishi presented his work on Abbey Lincoln's 1973 jazz recordings. Onishi offers a detailed personal, political, and cultural contextualization for recordings to claim that the tracks illustrate Lincoln's "aesthetic of radical black feminism." More specifically, Onishi used a queer of color critique (via Rod Ferguson) to read interviews with Lincoln, along side her vocalization of "Caged Birds" as a direct revolt against white heteropatriachy.
Although Onishi's presentation itself raised many questions for me, I was particularly intrigued by the "question and answer" discussion that followed his talk. Amy Kaminsky posed one of the first questions regarding Onishi's claim that Lincoln was standing in resistance to heteropatriachy in her embrace of polyamory. Although Onishi presented this stance as queer, Kaminsky was concerned because Lincoln made no direct reference to same-sex desire, but rather continued to express heterosexual desire, albeit in a polygamous form. After this comment, a number of other people responded including Edén Torres, Zenzele Isoke, Naomi Scheman, and Charlottee Albrecht. I would like to join this conversation, virtually, as well as use it as a starting point for my questions.
I agree with Edén's reading of Lincoln's statement of desire for "you and you and you" as a potential opening for same-sex desire. However, I would like to resist the notion that same-sex desire needs to be at the forefront of queerness. In fact, I would argue that same-sex desire does not have to be present at all in queerness. I agree with Onishi's reading of Lincoln as queer in that her embrace of polyamory stands in direct resistance to heteropatriachy. Furthermore, to agree with Brittany's post - the ambiguousness of Lincoln's statement itself makes it queer by refusaling the demanded intelligibility of heterpatriachy. Lastly, I agree completely with Zenzele's ascertain that Lincoln's queerness is rooted in disrupting the normalized white (hetero/monogamous) relationality. This is specifically clear in Onishi's presentation of Lincoln in that Onishi situates Lincoln's polyamory in the same historical moment as the release of the Moynihan Report.
The gender/sex of Lincoln's "you and you and you" potential partners is thus irrelevant to her queerness. It is queer for anyone to claim polyamory as their preferred structure of intimacy in a sociocultural (political) world that sees monogamy as the only "respectable" kind of relationality. (Something that is undoubtedly racialized and classed). Furthermore, for Lincoln as a woman of color this claim, without question, queers her in a post-Moynihan world. Race, just as much as desire, situates Lincoln as queer, radical, and powerful.
This conversation left me more aware then ever how much work queer theorists still have to do. Scholars like Rod Ferguson, Omi Tinsley, E. Patrick Johnson, Cheryl Clarke , to (re)name but a few, have done great work addressing race within queerness and queerness within race. As feminist scholars and thinkers we all too often claim and praise intersectionality within our work, but yet so often queerness moves unmarked as white leaving the queerness queers of color embody as marginalized or even worse misrecognized, or disregarded. My question is then, how can work like Onishi's, and the discussion that followed, help us all rethink/remember the possibilities of queer as an analytic which - by its very naming - refuses any form of standardization or boundedness?