From sapphire, mammy, and jezebel, to the angry black woman, baby mama, and nappy-headed ho, black female iconography has had a long and tortured history in public culture. The telling of this history has long occupied the work of black female theorists—much of which has been foundational in situating black women within the matrix of sociopolitical thought and practice in the United States. Scandalize My Name builds upon the rich tradition of this work while approaching the study of black female representation as an opening onto a critical contemplation of the vagaries of black social life. It makes a case for a radical black subject-position that structures and is structured by an intramural social order that revels in the underside of the stereotype and ultimately destabilizes the very notion of “civil society.”
At turns memoir, sociological inquiry, literary analysis, and cultural critique, Scandalize My Name explores topics as varied as serial murder, reality television, Christian evangelism, teenage pregnancy, and the work of Toni Morrison to advance black feminist practice as a mode through which black sociality is both theorized and made material.
Scandalize My Name is beautifully written and compellingly argued. Moving deftly between personal narrative, media analysis, and literary criticism, Williamson makes a major contribution to black studies, media studies, and feminist and gender studies. The questions she raises are ones scholars will take up for generations to come.
—C. Riley Snorton
author of Nobody is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low
"Scandalize My Name is a rare work that manages to enter the field of black feminist theory and articulate something truly new, something that builds in thoughtful and rigorous ways upon the work that has come before but also advances the field of critical inquiry that we call “black feminism” in a profound (rather than incremental) way. Williamson’s theoretical elaboration of the concept of “black social life”--as a response and antidote to black “social death” theory and as a means of exposing and circumventing the constraints of stereotype that shape respectability discourse and other common critical rhetorics that structure black feminist analysis--is incredibly important.”
University of Illinois