Skip to main content

Defining Ratchet: Ratchet and Boojie Politics in Black Queer Space

  • 310 Accesses

Abstract

In the essay “‘Quare’ Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know about Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother” E. P. Johnson provides an etymology and definition of the word quare, wherein, following Alice Walker’s definition of womanism (Walker 1983), Johnson lays out his understanding of what “quare” means. Quare, according to Johnson (Johnson 2001) is a Southern African American English variant of the word queer and it does a particular kind of work to animate the specificity of (Southern) Black queer experience within what had begun to emerge within academia as “queer studies” (Johnson 2001). In this spirit, and following Johnson (2001) “out on a limb,” I offer here what I consider to be a preliminary etymology and definition of ratchet. It is culled together from the way interlocutors in both formal and informal interviews used the word during my time in the field, but in no way is it meant to stand in for or be treated as the actual definition which is in constant flux. Instead, I am interested in its function and use value to those who put the word into practice.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-23319-8_2
  • Chapter length: 32 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   69.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-23319-8
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   89.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   89.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    In the first sentence of the essay Johnson writes, “I am going out on a limb.” He is remarking on the high stakes of attempting to re-conceptualize what was still forming as “queer studies.” He goes on to say, “This is a precarious position, but the stakes are high enough to warrant risky business” (Johnson 2001, 2).

  2. 2.

    I prefer the spelling “b-o-o-j-i-e” because it better approximates my own pronunciation and I believe the “j” better captures the pretentiousness intended in the use of the word.

  3. 3.

    For example, I abhor hotels that are less than a 4 star Micheline rating. They make me feel itchy. When it comes to hotels, I am boojie. There’s nothing wrong with 3 star hotels (though I reserve the right to argue that there may be something wrong with hotels that only have 2 stars or less), however, hotels with fewer than 4 stars simply assault my boojie sensibilities.

  4. 4.

    This is not unlike parties that had begun to appear in the mid-2010s featuring Black “neo-burlesque” performers. The biggest difference is that the stripping taking place was not “sanctioned” vis-a-vie a trendy organizing moniker such as “burlesque.”

  5. 5.

    An AAE phrase which roughly means getting people to behave properly, respectfully, and/or as if they have decency and “common sense.”

  6. 6.

    In AAE, “knowing how to act” often refers to having knowledge of, and behaving in ways sanctioned by the Black middle-class.

  7. 7.

    “Come up” refers to experiencing a form of upward mobility. In this case, she experienced class mobility. Being on the “come up” in terms of class may come about through earning more money, or strategic investments in education.

  8. 8.

    Interestingly enough, if you’re being your most ratchet self, you would absolutely appear unable to assimilate.

References

  • Alim, H. Samy, and Geneva Smitherman. 2012. Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Binnie, Jon. 2011. Class, Sexuality and Space: A Comment. Sexualities 14 (1): 21–26.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Binnie, Jon, and Beverley Skeggs. 2004. Cosmopolitan Knowledge and the Production and Consumption of Sexualized Space: Manchester’s Gay Village. The Sociological Review 52 (1): 39–61.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Reprint, 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 1986. The Forms of Capital. In Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. J.E. Richardson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, Nadia E., and Lisa Young. 2015. Ratchet Politics: Moving Beyond Black Women’s Bodies to Indict Institutions and Structures. In Broadening the Contours in the Study of Black Politics: Political Development and Black Women, ed. Michael Mitchell and David Covin. Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Browne, Kath, and Leela Bakshi. 2011. We Are Here to Party? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Leisurescapes Beyond Commercial Gay Scenes. Leisure Studies 30 (2): 179–196.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, Cathy J. 2005. Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics. In Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology, ed. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae Henderson, 21–51. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Du Bois, John. 2007. The Stance Triangle. In Stancetaking in Discourse: Subjectivity, Evaluation, Interaction, ed. Robert Englebretson. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London and New York: Routledge.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson, Roderick A. 2000. The Nightmares of the Heteronormative. Journal for Cultural Research 4 (4): 419–444.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2005a. Of Our Normative Strivings: African American Studies and the Histories of Sexuality. Social Text 23 (3–4): 85–100.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2005b. Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity. In Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology, ed. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae Henderson, 52–67. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goffman, E., and J. Best. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face to Face Behavior. Rochester, NY: Aldine Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hammonds, Evelynn. 1994. Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6 (2/3): 126–145.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, David. 2007a. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2007b. Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 610: 22–44.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, E. Patrick. 1998. Feeling the Spirit in the Dark: Expanding Notions of the Sacred in the African-American Gay Community. Callaloo 21 (2): 399–416.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2001. “Quare” Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother. Text and Performance Quarterly 21 (1): 1–25.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2003. The Pot is Brewing: Marlon Riggs’ Black is… Black Ain’t. In Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2011. Foreword. In From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances, ed. Vershawn Ashanti Young and Bridget Harris Tsemo, xiii–xxxi. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin, J.R. 2001. Beyond Exchange: Appraisal Systems in English. In Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse, ed. Susan Hunston and Geoff Thompson. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McBride, Dwight A. 2005. Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch: Essays on Race and Sexuality. New York: New York University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller-Young, Mireille. 2008. Hip-Hop Honeys and Da Hustlaz: Black Sexualities in the New Hip-Hop Pornography. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 8 (1): 261–292.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Moore, Mignon R. 2006. Lipstick or Timberlands? Meanings of Gender Presentation in Black Lesbian Communities. Signs 32 (1): 113–138.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2011. Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood Among Black Women. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Riggs, Marlon T. 1995. Black Is… Black Ain’t. San Francisco: California Newsreel.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Rodriguez, Juana Maria. 2003. Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces. New York and London: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smitherman, Geneva. 1994. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2000. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stallings, LaMonda Horton. 2013. Hip Hop and the Black Ratchet Imagination. Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International 2 (2): 135–139.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Stevenson, Angus, and Christine A. Lindberg. 2018. Ratchet. In New Oxford American Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Yvette. 2007. Working-Class Lesbian Life: Classed Outsiders. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2016. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, Gill, and Tracey Skelton. 2003. Finding Oneself, Losing Oneself: The Lesbian and Gay ‘Scene’ as Paradoxical Space. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27 (4): 849–866.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Visser, Gustav. 2008. The Homonormalisation of White Heterosexual Leisure Spaces in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Geoforum 39 (3): 1344–1358.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Walker, Alice. 1983. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Prose. San Diego: Harcourt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, Vershawn Ashanti. 2011. Introduction: Performing Citizenship. In From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances, ed. Vershawn Ashanti Young and Bridget Harris Tsemo, 1–38. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, Vershawn, and Bridget Harris Tsemo, eds. 2011. African American Life Series: From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Lane, N. (2019). Defining Ratchet: Ratchet and Boojie Politics in Black Queer Space. In: The Black Queer Work of Ratchet. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23319-8_2

Download citation