'Like signposts on the road': The function of literarcy in constructing black queer ancestors

Eric Darnell Pritchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous scholarship in literacy and composition has noted the importance and function of ancestors in the literacy and rhetorical practices of descendants. However, such research has not explored how ancestorship functions for people at the marginalized intersection of racialized otherness and queer sexualities and genders. This article offers one response to this gap by reporting on the role of literacy in the life stories of sixty Black queer people residing in various regions across the United States who named historical erasure as a particularly detrimental form of oppression enacted by, though subverted through, literacy. An analysis of participants’ uses of literacy to navigate historical erasure reveals that as participants encounter historical erasure, they disrupt its negative impact through four patterns of ancestorship: (1) literacy is used to create, discover, and affirm relationships to ancestors; (2) ancestors model the multiplicity of identities as a category of rhetorical analysis; (3) descendants’ identity formation/affirmation is affected by an ancestors’ writing and lives; and (4) descendants receive cross-generational mandates to become ancestors through literacy. Further, while African American literacies and LGBTQ literacies have each emerged as potent areas of scholarship in literacy and composition studies, the absence of a sustained and substantive discussion at the intersection of both areas contributes to a larger critical vacuum in rhetoric and composition in which we have overlooked the literacy and composition practices shaped at the
intersection of race and queerness. This article begins to address this oversight through an in-depth exploration of a specific literacy and rhetorical practice among Black LGBTQ people.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-53
Number of pages25
JournalLiteracy in Composition Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • literacy
  • ancestorship
  • African American
  • LGBT
  • queer
  • race
  • sexuality
  • gender
  • pedagogy
  • Black Queer theory
  • qualitative research
  • intersectionality
  • historical erasure


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