13 Jun 2012

Black Queer Theory and Neoliberalism

By Cathy Cohen

The workshop explored how the policies and rhetoric of neoliberalism impact and reshape the intimate sphere, using it as a site for state intervention while deploying the language of privatization. This use of the intimate sphere as a site of regulation is not new. For example, the intimate sphere has always been a heightened domain of regulation for racialized marginal communities. Understanding this, what lessons can we learn from the history of struggle in African-American communities over issues such as sex, desire and family? Specifically, we explored what interventions in theory and practice might be developed from black queer theory to challenge the attack on or use of the intimate sphere in neoliberalism.

Cathy Cohen is Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, and the author of the groundbreaking 2005 essay “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” (in: Black Queer Studies. A Critical Anthology ed. by Patrick E. Johnson and Mae G. Henderson, Durham/London 2005), that has inspired much reflection and response from queer of color as well as critical whiteness thought. In the essay, Cohen criticizes the all-too-simple binary of “queer” versus “straight” and pleads for queer theory and politics to be more attentive to the complex and intertwined power relations of, for instance, sexuality, race, and class. In her early book, The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (Chicago 1999), she addresses the tensions between NGO and black community organizing, state politics, and the needs of individuals in relation to HIV/AIDS politics and policies. In her most recent book, Democracy Remixed. Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford 2010), Cohen presents a detailed analysis of the racialized and often still racist power dynamics in contemporary US politics that draws on the actual voices of black youth. In her talk, she connects this understanding of the racialized state to neoliberal developments and the specific forms they take in the age of Obama.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Antke Engel
Institute for Queer Theory
In cooperation with and support by the Institut für Politikwissenschaft der Freien Universität Berlin (Prof. Cilja Harders), the Zentraleinrichtung zur Förderung von Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung an der Freien Universität Berlin, and ICI Berlin.

In English

First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin
Cite as: Cathy Cohen, Black Queer Theory and Neoliberalism, workshop, ICI Berlin, 13 June 2012 <>