Look at Me: A New Book About Education and the Black Queer Body

*This post is part of our blog series that announces the publication of selected new books in African American History and African Diaspora Studies. Who Look at Me?! Shifting the Gaze of Education through Blackness, Queerness, and the Body was recently published by Brill Press.


Durell M. Callier is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University. Situated at the intersection of queer, cultural, and educational studies, his current research analyzes how Black expressive culture created by Black, queer youth, girls, and women through informal educational institutions and practices are used toward Black survival and knowledge creation. He has also published articles on anti-Black and anti-queer violence, and citizenship, Black masculinity, Black girlhood, and Black performance pedagogy art in a variety of venues such as Qualitative Inquiry, Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research and Text and Performance Quarterly. An artist scholar, Callier is the co-visionary of an arts-based collective Hill L. Waters, which enacts Black queer world making as an embodied pedagogy, research site, and publicly engaged practice.

Dominique C. Hill is a scholar-artist, ethnographer, and body-lyricist dedicated to using art and the body as tools to reimagine what we know about Black girlhood and womanhood. Her interdisciplinary scholarship and life’s work is dedicated to generating and making legible theories and knowledge produced at the nexus of race and gender. Specifically, she examines how educultural spaces construct and are disrupted by Black girls’ and women’s lived experiences. Connected to her commitment to publicly engaged scholarship, Hill is a co-visionary of an arts-based collective Hill L. Waters, which enacts Black queer world making as an embodied pedagogy, research site, and publicly engaged practice. Dr. Hill is the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Illinois Dissertation Award for experimental qualitative research and a visiting assistant professor of Black Studies at Amherst College.

Who Look at Me?!: Shifting the Gaze of Education through Blackness, Queerness, and the Body explores how we, as a society, see Blackness and in particular Black youth. Drawing on a range of sources, the authors argue that the ability to operationalize the sentiment that #BlackLivesMatter, requires seeing Blackness wholly, as queer, and as a site of subversive knowledge production. Continuing the work of June Jordan and Langston Hughes, and based on the authors’ work as a Black queer artist collective known as Hill L. Waters, Who Look at Me?! provides alternative tools for reading about and engaging with the lived experiences of Black youth and educational research for and about Black youth.

In this way, the book presents not only the possibilities of envisioning teaching and research practices but presents examples that embrace, celebrate, and make room for the fullness of Black and queer bodies and experiences. This work will appeal to those interested in emancipatory methodological and educational practices as well as interdisciplinary conversations related to sociocultural constructions of race and sexuality, the politics of Blackness, and race in education.

The Black queer body has been marginalized in education for far too long. When the Black queer body is seen, it is seen through a gaze that is rooted in anti-blackness. Who Look at Me?!is a book not only to shift the field, but our humanity. To see Black queer bodies wholeness and complexities at the same time. This book is a love poem of research addressed to the most vulnerable.”–Bettina L. Love, University of Georgia

J.T. Roane: What type of impact do you hope your work has on the existing literature on this subject? Where do you think the field is headed and why?

Durell M. Callier and Dominique Hill: For us, this work is an invitation. Drawing on the fields of Black feminism, Black queer studies, and Black performance studies we implore folks generally—but specifically within the field of Education—to trouble limitations imposed upon Blackness (how it is seen and rendered). For those concerned with the future and well-being of Black folks in and beyond schooling contexts, we see our book as a pathway to collectively consider tools and topics essential to providing redress to issues and populations overlooked and/or (mis)read within educational research. Grounded in three fundamental beliefs: 1.) Blackness is queer(ness), 2.) Blackness and the Black body are fertile educative sites, and 3.) Blackness is possibility.

Who look at me?! compels readers to reflect on how they see and unsee Blackness and Black bodies while experiencing Black self-making. In other words, we ask what can be learned about Black bodies, education, and possibility, when we take Blackness on its own terms, see it through Black eyes? Pushing existing literature within the aforementioned fields, we hope that Who look at me?! incites conversations around the utility of the Black body and performance for reshaping current educational practices and policies. How might Teacher Education, for instance, be differently structured through a critical engagement with radical Black love praxis? What might history and Black history look like if queerness were not kept out of or seen as apart from Blackness? And how might both of these realities restructure the lives and experiences of Black youth?

Lastly, this book would not be possible without June Jordan’s children’s book and book length poem entitled Who Look at Me. And this is particularly crucial for us because of the type of instruction for a better future that Black feminists like Jordan provide. Building on her groundwork, we illustrate the continuing significance of Jordan’s work in our contemporary moment. Thinking critically with her, the book presents not only the possibilities of envisioning teaching and research practices which might look and see Black queer youth fully, but also presents examples that embrace, celebrate, and make room for the fullness of Black and queer bodies and experiences. We hope that the impact of our work shifts how Black youth are seen and heard, so that they do not experience premature death or violence in any of its forms.

Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.

J. T. Roane

J.T. Roane is assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Cincinnati. He is also part of the University’s urban futures initiative. Roane is broadly concerned about matters of geography, sexuality, and religion in relation to Black communities. He is at work on a manuscript, Dark Agoras: Insurgent Black Social Life and the Politics of Place in Philadelphia, which historicizes multiple modes of insurgent spatial assemblage Black communities articulated in Philadelphia in the second half of the twentieth century. Follow him on Twitter @JTRoane.

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