Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty

By Ana-Maurine Lara

Subjects: Caribbean Studies, Anthropology, Queer Studies, Black Studies, Indigenous Studies
Series: SUNY series, Afro-Latinx Futures
Paperback : 9781438481104, 190 pages, January 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481098, 190 pages, November 2020

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Table of contents


opening ceremony





closing ceremony



Evocative, innovative ethnography of spiritual practices and forms of queer, black, and indigenous life in the Dominican Republic.


2021 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Winner of the 2021 Gregory Bateson Book Prize presented by the Society for Cultural Anthropology

Winner of the 2020 Ruth Benedict Prize presented by the Association for Queer Anthropology

Theoretically wide-ranging and deeply personal and poetic, Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty is based on more than three years of fieldwork in the Dominican Republic. Ana-Maurine Lara draws on her engagement in traditional ceremonies, observations of national Catholic celebrations, and interviews with activists from peasant, feminist, and LGBT communities to reframe contemporary conversations about queerness and blackness. The result is a rich ethnography of the ways criollo spiritual practices challenge gender and racial binaries and manifest what Lara characterizes as a shared desire for decolonization.

Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty is also a ceremonial ofrenda, or offering, in its own right. At its heart is a fundamental question: How can we enable "queer : black" life in all its forms, and what would it mean to be "free : sovereign" in the twenty-first century? Calling on the reader to join her in exploring possible answers, Lara maintains that the analogy between these terms—queerness and blackness, freedom and sovereignty—is necessarily incomplete and unresolved, to be determined only by ongoing processes of embodied, relational knowledge production. Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty thus follows figures such as Sylvia Wynter, María Lugones, M. Jacqui Alexander, Édouard Glissant, Mark Rifkin, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde in working to theorize a potential roadmap to decolonization.

Ana-Maurine Lara is Assistant Professor in the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Erzulie's Skirt and Kohnjehr Woman.


"Queer Freedom: Black Sovereignty is a book about connections that reveals the massive web tying all forms of life and their struggles together. The innovation of Lara's study lies in both its content and its form, making it a valuable addition to ongoing conversations about the ways that coloniality in the Caribbean affects groups that are putatively separated in their needs and identities." — Palimpsest

"Queer Freedom encourages Black, Queer, and Dominican studies scholars to become undisciplined, centering transnational, decolonial, Indigenous, and Black feminist thought. Lara inspires us to get clear with spirit and practice an ethics of care and love to achieve decolonial futures of freedom in collaboration with our interlocutors." — Transforming Anthropology

"The book is itself a sacred offering to the ancestral, spiritual, and physical beings that have contested the oppressive legacies of colonialism, racism, and homophobia. The author advocates for systemic change that will end the anguish of centuries of colonial and imperial doctrine that have imprisoned the imaginations and desires of Caribbean peoples. It is a phenomenological study written in poetic, provocative, powerful prose … This reflexive, theoretically engaging study is a must read for scholars of the African diaspora and specialists in gender and sexuality studies, especially in the Caribbean." — CHOICE

"This book is a necessary and powerful contribution to the fields of gender and sexuality studies, Caribbean studies, black queer studies, and anthropology, among others. It is a refreshing intervention—dynamic, unique, and beautifully written—into how we write about, create, and theorize the Caribbean and postcolonial world. The book defies the conventions of Western forms of knowledge production. It fully embraces black and indigenous forms of creation and knowledge production—and the author demonstrates this through storytelling, ethnography, participatory research, creative nonfiction, poetry, mythmaking, and spiritual practice. This book and its author demand justice." — Angelique V. Nixon, author of Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture