Building on work by scholars of the New Literacy Studies who have demonstrated the relationship between literacy and various institutional structures, my dissertation explores identities for both their material impact and multiplicity. MultiplicityMoreBuilding on work by scholars of the New Literacy Studies who have demonstrated the relationship between literacy and various institutional structures, my dissertation explores identities for both their material impact and multiplicity.
Multiplicity refers to how various identities blend in such a way that they change the contexts in which each is seen and experienced. I examine the ways that membership in multiple identity groups places unique mandates on ones individual literacy practices.
By mandates I refer to obligations that are felt to be imposed on the learning, meaning and uses of a persons literacy, while still recognizing that mandates are interpreted and taken up through the will or agency of the individual.
I focus especially on relationships between literacy and the mandates to survive and resist social oppression based on ones identities. At the same time, the analysis considers how oppressive agents themselves often appropriate literacy to try to maintain dominance and inflict harm.
I have termed the latter acts the misuses of literacy.-I advance these arguments through a study of individual literacy in the life histories of 40 Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBTQ) people born 1941--1988 with whom I conducted interviews. Bringing their life stories into dialogue with published texts of notable black LGBTQ authors (Audre Lorde, Pat Parker, James Baldwin), as well as archival documents from black LGBTQ organizations (the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays), and original interviews with black LGBTQ activists (Barbara Smith, Jewelle Gomez), I aim to build a theory of Black Queer Literacies.
My analysis employs principles of grounded theory, which stress a close, systematic and thorough search for patterns that will lead to strong conceptual explanations of the literate and rhetorical practices of black LGBTQ people and their relationship to identity-related mandates. The analysis aims to develop new perspectives on the relationship between literacy and social/political/cultural/economic contexts, as well as a detailed account of how multiple identities impact literacy learning. The analysis highlights a continuum of literate and rhetorical practices by black LGBTQ people across generations.