Beyond Respectability employs an Anna Julia Cooperian approach to reading and interrogating the theoretical work and lived experiences of Black women intellectuals. To understand this methodological approach, one needs to first become acquainted with two of Cooper’s cardinal commitments. They include: 1) a commitment to seeing the Black female body as a form of possibility and not a burden, and 2) a commitment to centering the Black female body as a means to cathect Black social thought. In Voice, Cooper places the Black female body and all that it knows squarely in the center of the text’s methodology. She fundamentally believed that we cannot divorce Black women’s bodies from the theory they produce. The author recognizes these forms as an embodied discourse, which predominates in Cooper’s work. Embodied discourse refers to a form of Black female textual activism wherein race women assertively demand the inclusion of their bodies and, in particular, working class bodies and Black female bodies by placing them in the texts they write and speak. By pointing to all the ways Black women’s bodies emerge in formal and informal autobiographical accounts, archival materials, and advocacy work, this work disrupts the smooth function of the culture of dissemblance and the politics of respectability as the paradigmatic frames through which to engage Black women’s ideas and their politics.
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