Online Roundtable–Jafari S. Allen’s ‘There’s a Disco Ball Between Us’


May 15–22, 2023

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting a roundtable on Jafari S. Allen’s There’s a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life (Duke University Press, 2022). The roundtable begins on Monday, May 15, 2023 and concludes on Monday, May 22, 2023. It will feature pieces from Marcus Lee (Princeton University), Alexandria Smith (Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies), Emily R. Bock (George Washington University), Kwame Edwin Otu (Georgetown University), and Jennifer Dominique Jones (University of Michigan). At the conclusion of the roundtable, the author Jafari S. Allen (Columbia University) will respond.

During the week of the online roundtable, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter, like AAIHS on Facebook, or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the roundtable.

About the Author

Jafari Sinclaire Allen is Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of There’s a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life, published by Duke University Press in 2022; and ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba. Dr. Allen is the editor of the GLQ special issue Black/Queer/Diaspora and has published in numerous journals and collections. He is the former founding Co-Director of the Center for Global Black Studies at the University of Miami; and his work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Yale MacMillan Center, among others. Professor Allen is the new editor-in-chief of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society.



About the Participants

Marcus Lee is a social scientist and writer, with expertise in Black Studies. He earned a B.A. in Sociology at Morehouse College and a Ph.D. in Political Science, with a certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Chicago. His research concerns 20th-century black political history, social movements, black popular culture, and science and technology. At Princeton, he will pursue a book project that examines the material and discursive conditions under which black gay/lesbian groups attained political “visibility” in the “post-civil rights era.” With particular attention to the early development of HIV/AIDS statistics, the advent of hand-held audiovisual technologies, and the institutionalization of civil rights history, the project details the political effects and historical significance of late 20th century efforts to specify and articulate black sexual difference.

Lee is the recipient of a number of awards, including the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Point Foundation Scholarship, the American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship, and the Predoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships through the Ford Foundation. His research has been supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Mellon Mays Foundation, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. He has published work in the Du Bois Review and The Atlantic.

Alexandria Smith (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. She earned her PhD in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies from Rutgers University and received undergraduate training in the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College. Alexandria is working on a manuscript which examines how contemporary Black queer literary authors have engaged and troubled the question of what it means to be a Black woman.





Emily R. Bock is a cultural anthropologist whose research and teaching are situated at the intersection of black studies, queer theory, performance studies, ethnography, social theory, and ethics. She is currently writing her book manuscript tentatively titled, Ordinary Queens: Queer Performances of the Good Life, which is a multi-sited ethnography of the contemporary ballroom scene—an underground, predominantly black, queer performance community. In considering how members strive to imagine and secure existence beyond mere survival within an ordinary haunted by anti-black and anti-queer violences, the book tracks the practices for living that emerge from experiments with and against normative US values.

Bock received a BA in Anthropology and Dance with a minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Barnard College in New York and earned her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the Department of American Studies at George Washington University, she held a joint appointment in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Kwame Edwin Otu is currently Associate Professor of African Anthropology at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is the author of Amphibious Subjects: Sasso and the Contested Politics of Queer Self-Making in Neoliberal Ghana. Currently, he is at work on his book manuscript, provisionally entitled, The Salvage Slot: Technology and Ecologies of the After-Afterlife, an ethnography of the entwined lives of e-waste workers and e-waste on a dump in Ghana.




Jennifer Dominique Jones is an assistant professor of history and women’s and gender studies at the University of Michigan. She completed her doctoral degree in American history at Princeton University in 2014. Prior to her appointment, she was a member of the inaugural cohort of the LSA Collegiate Fellowship. Before her appointment to the University of Michigan, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Gender & Race Studies and the Department of American Studies at the University of Alabama. Her areas of research and teaching expertise are African American history after 1877, with a focus on politics and social life, and the history of gender and sexuality in the United States in the twentieth century with a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) politics and community life. She regularly teaches the following courses: Queer Histories of the United States, 1850 to the Present, Black Queer Histories, Black Intimacies, and History of Mobility and Migrations in African American History. Her forthcoming book, Ambivalent Affinities: A Political History of Blackness and Homosexuality After World War II (Justice, Power and Politics Series, University of North Carolina Press) illuminates a heretofore underexplored history: the unlikely tethering of political narratives about LGBTQ to understandings of Black political mobilization for social justice.

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