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The Sovereignty of Quiet

Beyond Resistance in Black Culture
Kevin Quashie (Author)
204 pages, 6 x 9
Paper, July 2012 $27.95   ADD TO CART
Cloth, July 2012 $75.00   ADD TO CART
epub, July 2012 $27.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
Subject Area:
African American Studies, American Studies, Literary Studies


African American culture is often considered expressive, dramatic, and even defiant. In The Sovereignty of Quiet, Kevin Quashie explores quiet as a different kind of expressiveness, one which characterizes a person’s desires, ambitions, hungers, vulnerabilities, and fears. Quiet is a metaphor for the inner life, and as such, enables a more nuanced understanding of black culture.


The book revisits such iconic moments as Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s protest at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and Elizabeth Alexander’s reading at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. Quashie also examines such landmark texts as Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Toni Morrison’s Sula to move beyond the emphasis on resistance, and to suggest that concepts like surrender, dreaming, and waiting can remind us of the wealth of black humanity.


"The Sovereignty of Quiet is a profound and excellent look at quiet and its relationship with black identity, black culture, and existentialism. With impeccable scholarship, beautiful writing, and powerful arguments, Quashie makes a fabulous contribution to the field. A success!"
—Debra Walker King, author of African Americans and the Culture of Pain

"With fluid and beautiful prose, Quashie’s book not only offers readers another way to think about African American selfhood, but also other ways to approach the very act of reading itself."
—Emily Bernard, author of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance

"Quashie challenges the general assumption that African American commentary is expressed in loud voices as he studies the often-overlooked internal conflicts of 'black culture'. His intertwining of both factual and fictional situations provides a brilliant and intriguiging insight that ultimately suggests an overwhelming gentle message about African American protest and resistance. Recommended."

Author / Editor Bio

KEVIN QUASHIE is an associate professor of Afro-American studies at Smith College. He is the author of Black Women, Identity, and Cultural Theory: (Un)Becoming the Subject (Rutgers University Press).

Table Of Contents


1. Publicness, Silence, and the Sovereignty of the Interior

2. Not Double Consciousness but the Consciousness of Surrender

3. Maud Martha and the Practice of Paying Attention

4. Quiet, Vulnerability, and Nationalism

5. The Capacities of Waiting, the Expressiveness of Prayer




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