114th Annual Conference - Pasadena, California
Friday, November 11 - Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reimagining a Black Identity: The Queering of Public and Private Space in Walker’s The Color Purple

Grant Palmer, University of California, Riverside

Historically, queerness has been rejected by a dominant version of African American uplift projects operating under the leadership of a heteronormative and patriarchal ideology. I understand Alice Walker's The Color Purple as challenging this dominant ideology by offering a positive view of a queered family structure. 


Alice Walker’s The Color Purple proposes an alternative to the traditionally heteronormative black community uplift projects of the 1970s and 1980s by challenging the notion that any uplift of the African American community can only be achieved through a black male patriarchy, as discussed in the research of Erica R. Edwards and Stefanie K. Dunning. In this traditional/heteronormative iteration of the family structure, the private space of the domestic becomes a site for black males to violently transfer the aggression of white male oppression experienced in public space onto the bodies of black women. Through a queering of both private and public spaces in The Color Purple, Walker problematizes this type of male patriarchal oppression and offers an alternative queered family structure, as expressed through the relationship of Celie, Shug, and Albert, in which the strictures of male power and domestic dominance is replaced by egalitarian affection and a fluid familial possibility.