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Food and Identity in His Life and Fiction
Emily Na

This article traces how the queer Black writer James Baldwin’s transnational palate and experiences influenced the ways he wrote about Black domestic spaces in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, while Black feminist cooks and writers like Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor developed new theories of soul food in relation to the Black American community and broader American cuisine, Baldwin incorporated these philosophies and transnational tastes into his lifestyle and works. He traveled and worked around Europe, settling in places like Paris, Istanbul, and Saint-Paul de Vence for years at a time. In Saint-Paul de Vence, where he spent his last years, he set up his own welcome table, at which he hosted internationally renowned guests and shared his love of cuisine. Inevitably, Baldwin’s passion for cooking and hosting meals became a large, though scholarly neglected, component of his novels and essays. In his novels Another Country, which he finished in Istanbul and published in 1962, and Just Above My Head, which he finished in Saint-Paul de Vence and published in 1979, Baldwin’s depictions of food and Black kitchens take a queer turn. Instead of lingering on traditional Black family structures, these texts specifically present new formulations of intimate home life and reimagine relationships between food, kitchens, race, and sex in the late twentieth century.

James Baldwin Review
Between “Stranger in the Village” and I Am Not Your Negro
Jovita dos Santos Pinto, Noémi Michel, Patricia Purtschert, Paola Bacchetta and Vanessa Naef

James Baldwin’s writing, his persona, as well as his public speeches, interviews, and discussions are undergoing a renewed reception in the arts, in queer and critical race studies, and in queer of color movements. Directed by Raoul Peck, the film I Am Not Your Negro decisively contributed to the rekindled circulation of Baldwin across the Atlantic. Since 2017, screenings and commentaries on the highly acclaimed film have prompted discussions about the persistent yet variously racialized temporospatial formations of Europe and the U.S. Stemming from a roundtable that followed a screening in Zurich in February 2018, this collective essay wanders between the audio-visual and textual matter of the film and Baldwin’s essay “Stranger in the Village,” which was also adapted into a film-essay directed by Pierre Koralnik, staging Baldwin in the Swiss village of Leukerbad. Privileging Black feminist, postcolonial, and queer of color perspectives, we identify three sites of Baldwin’s transatlantic reverberations: situated knowledge, controlling images, and everyday sexual racism. In conclusion, we reflect on the implications of racialized, sexualized politics for today’s Black feminist, queer, and trans of color movements located in continental Europe—especially in Switzerland and France.

James Baldwin Review
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Reading James Baldwin’s Existential Hindsight in Go Tell It on the Mountain
Miller Wilbourn

This essay reads James Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, through the lenses of European existentialism and Black existential thought to arrive at a new understanding of the novel itself as well as essential stages of its development. Archival sources and close reading reveal Baldwin’s historically and existentially informed artistic vision, summed up in the terms hindsight and insight. His thoughtful, uncomfortable engagement with the past leads to a recuperated relationship to the community and constitutes existential hindsight, which informs his inward understanding of himself—his insight. This investigation draws on various works from Baldwin’s fiction, essays, interviews, and correspondence to arrive at a better understanding of the writer’s intellectual and artistic development, focusing especially on the professed objectives behind, and major revisions of, the novel. I conclude the essay through a close reading of the conversion scene that constitutes Part Three of Go Tell It on the Mountain.

James Baldwin Review
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Black Women as Surrogates of Liberation in James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk
Marquita R. Smith

This essay analyzes how James Baldwin’s late novel If Beale Street Could Talk represents Black women’s care work in the face of social death as an example of how Black women act as surrogates for Black liberation giving birth to a new world and possibilities of freedom for Black (male) people. Within the politics of Black nationalism, Black women were affective workers playing a vital role in the (re)creation of heteronormative family structures that formed the basis of Black liberation cohered by a belief in the power of patriarchy to make way for communal freedom. This essay demonstrates how Beale Street’s imagining of freedom centers not on what Black women do to support themselves or each other, but on the needs of the community at large, with embodied sacrifice as a presumed condition of such liberation.

James Baldwin Review
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Postcolonial governance and the policing of family
Author: Joe Turner

Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.

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Intimacy, Shame, and the Closet in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room
Monica B. Pearl

This essay’s close interrogation of James Baldwin’s 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room allows us to see one aspect of how sexual shame functions: it shows how shame exposes anxiety not only about the feminizing force of homosexuality, but about how being the object of the gaze is feminizing—and therefore shameful. It also shows that the paradigm of the closet is not the metaphor of privacy and enclosure on one hand and openness and liberation on the other that it is commonly thought to be, but instead is a site of illusory control over whether one is available to be seen and therefore humiliated by being feminized. Further, the essay reveals the paradox of denial, where one must first know the thing that is at the same time being disavowed or denied. The narrative requirements of fictions such as Giovanni’s Room demonstrate this, as it requires that the narrator both know, in order to narrate, and not know something at the same time.

James Baldwin Review
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Pasts and presents
Joe Turner

The conclusion reflects on the main arguments and analysis of Bordering intimacy. This reflects on how borders are part of a broader logic of coloniality in our current moment which ties into an intensification of authoritarian politics. The reader is reminded why it is important to recognise where these practices came from and how they are orientated towards the dispossession of particular populations over others. Without an understanding of empire, we are unable to properly grasp how government works, how violence and borders are organised in our contemporary moment. Without an understanding of the role that family plays in all of this, we risk ignoring how this is normalised/naturalised and how colonial conceptions of human worth are resuscitated and remade in our current moment (such as in liberal conceptions of ‘universal love’).

in Bordering intimacy
Open Access (free)
Joe Turner

This chapter asks what the expanding use of powers to deprive British citizens of their rights tells us about the impossibility of British citizenship after the Empire. Writing against existing studies which propose that deprivation of citizenship is a contemporary aberration, it reveals the colonial genealogy of deprivation. Whilst legal deprivation has expanded under the War on Terror and through the ‘hostile environment’, this is an expression of older logics of dehumanisation tied to appeals to developmental concepts of the family. De facto deprivation of not only political rights but personhood was central to colonial rule and the treatment of the colonised people deemed ‘undomesticated’. Because deprivation of citizenship is targeted at racialised subjects, this practice has the effect of making all British citizens of colour into potential migrants. It makes large swathes of the population, with formal citizenship, deportable. This is described here as the work of ‘sticky borders’.

in Bordering intimacy
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James Baldwin on My Shoulder
Karen Thorsen

Filmmaker Karen Thorsen gave us James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, the award-winning documentary that is now considered a classic. First broadcast on PBS/American Masters in August, 1989—just days after what would have been Baldwin’s 65th birthday—the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990. It was not the film Thorsen intended to make. Beginning in 1986, she and Baldwin had been collaborating on a very different film project: a “nonfiction feature” about the history, research, and writing of Baldwin’s next book, Remember This House. It was also going to be a film about progress: how far we had come, how far we still had to go, before we learned to trust our common humanity. The following memoir explores how and why their collaboration began. This recollection will be serialized in two parts, with the second installment appearing in James Baldwin Review’s seventh issue, due out in the fall of 2021.

James Baldwin Review
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Joe Turner

This chapter develops a theory of domestication, which underpins the book’s approach to borders, family, empire, race and government. This begins with a unique reading of Jane Eyre, a key piece of nineteenth-century literature, and explores what the treatment of the character of Bertha Mason can tell us about family and empire. Domestication concerns the organisation of household rule and the push to domesticate untamed and uncivilised elements in the name of heteronormative capitalist order. Drawing from postcolonial, decolonial and black feminism, the chapter shows how the discovery of undomesticated populations was central to domesticating territory through imperialism. Historically, family has related to race just as much as it has to the more familiar inequalities of gender and sexuality. The chapter shows how the figure of Bertha Mason is dehumanised in Jane Eyre as an undomesticated presence within the English manor house. This works as an allegory for the contemporary racialised migrant and citizen.

in Bordering intimacy