The Color Line : Race And The Invention Of Homosexuality Essay

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In her book Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture, Siobhan Somerville uses film and literature from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to demonstrate the ways in which early models of homosexuality were often embedded within discussions of race, specifically “the bifurcated constructions of ‘black’ and ‘white’ bodies” (175). Somerville notes that discussions of sexual orientations emerged at the same time Plessy v. Ferguson, the supreme court case that affirmed the government’s right to determine an individual’s racial identity, was settled. She contends that the development of sexual classifications alongside the U.S. governments “aggressive policing of the boundary between ‘black’ and ‘white’ bodies” was more than a coincidence in timing (3). Somerville argues that this new polarization of bodies and focus on sexual desires echoed a similar, simultaneous shift in racial thinking. During this shift, the cultural figure of the mulatto gave way to a new visualization of the races as natural opposites, and increasing numbers of legal and social devices were created to prevent people of different races from engaging in sexual activity with one another. Thus the materialization of new sexual categories paralleled, and was profoundly influenced by, the hardening of the "color line," the division of Americans into racially segregated categories.
I find Somerville’s analyses to be incredibly persuading due to her

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