The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics

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Overview

The Boundaries of Blackness is the first full-scale exploration of the social, political, and cultural impact of AIDS on the African-American community. Cathy Cohen unflinchingly brings to light how the AIDS epidemic fractured, rather than united, the black community. More broadly, she analyzes how other cross-cutting issues--of class, gender, and sexuality--challenge accepted ideas of who belongs in the community.

Examining the response of a changing community to an issue ...

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Overview

The Boundaries of Blackness is the first full-scale exploration of the social, political, and cultural impact of AIDS on the African-American community. Cathy Cohen unflinchingly brings to light how the AIDS epidemic fractured, rather than united, the black community. More broadly, she analyzes how other cross-cutting issues--of class, gender, and sexuality--challenge accepted ideas of who belongs in the community.

Examining the response of a changing community to an issue laced with stigma, The Boundaries of Blackness offers valuable insight into how the politics of the African-American community--and other marginal groups--will evolve in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yale professor Cohen combines rigorous research and fresh sociological insights to build her argument that a black political agenda based solely on race promotes exclusionary practices. Cohen tracked responses to AIDS by black civic and church leaders and media in New York City (where, since 1990, AIDS has infected more blacks than any other racial or ethnic group), finding that they have espoused an understanding of racial identity that privileges middle-class, heterosexual males, while using code words "to designate who was expendable." Starting at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, she compares coverage by network television news and the New York Times with that of black newspapers and magazines. Cohen attributes the failure of black media to focus on AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic to homophobia, classism and sexism, resulting in the extreme stigmatization of the most disempowered members of black communities. She finds that in the 1980s, the black political response to AIDS came largely from black lesbians and gays. In recent years, women and children of color have come to be most at risk, while the black media focuses on alternative treatments and new heterosexual dating patterns in response to AIDS. Although Cohen's analysis is encumbered by academic jargon, it is astute and eye-opening. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226112893
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 394
  • Sales rank: 719,447
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy J. Cohen is professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. She is the coeditor of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 The Boundaries of Black Politics 1
Ch. 2 Marginalization: Power, Identity, and Membership 33
Ch. 3 Enter AIDS: Context and Confrontation 78
Ch. 4 Invisible to the Centers for Disease Control 119
Ch. 5 All the Black People Fit to Print 149
Ch. 6 Conspiracies and Controversies 186
Ch. 7 Unsuspecting Women and the Dreaded Bisexual 220
Ch. 8 Willing to Serve, but Not to Lead 250
Ch. 9 Women, Children, and Funding 293
Ch. 10 AIDS and Beyond 339
Notes 349
Bibliography 363
Index 383
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2001

    revolutionary, critical work FROM A SISTER!!!

    I was reluctant to read or buy this book because I figured that a) I didn't want to hear a white person trash 'the' black community, and b) I didn't want to read a political science book that couldn't possibly cover any new ground on AIDS that fiction writers and progressive activists haven't already done. Fortunately, I was surprised on both fronts. Cohen is an African-American woman (she never explains how she got the last name Cohen) and does try to be mindful of being 'another black academic out to trash black folks' (xi). In addition, she provides a poli. sci. framework in which to look at how African-Americans prioritized or failed to prioritize AIDS that I think could be used to analyze numerous other issues. Cohen investigates black people's response to AIDS through medicine, the press, religious organization, and the Congress from 1981 to 1993. The book is not perfect. Chapters are completely misnamed. (One chapter about the 'dreaded bisexual' only discussed bisexual men for a page at most.) She at times is overly critical of black institutions. (She often states that the black press never covered HIV+ black gay men or HIV+ women activists and I can think of numerous articles in the magazines she examines which actually did what she wanted.) Nevertheless, this was an incredible book. I encourage everyone to purchase it, especially those interested in black gay issues or African-American studies.

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