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A State of Perpetual Inbetweenness: Black Women Negotiating Liminal Spaces in Contemporary Literature




Tigner, Julia

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



My dissertation underscores how Black women transform space through liminality, a term I use to unpack notions surrounding being Black and woman and living at the intersection of race and gender. More specifically, I define liminality as living in a state of perpetual inbetweenness as Black and woman. Additionally, I contend that this concept emerges as a subversive way for Black women to navigate a discriminatory world and transgress normative boundaries of Black womanhood. As Black women writers seek to create a space for Black women’s experiences, I consider how they use the literary realm, in particular, fiction, poetry, and drama to do so. As these writers flesh out these experiences in contemporary literature, my dissertation asks how do their protagonists complicate and trouble space as Black women? In order to explore this question, I discuss how Black women writers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, such as Toni Morrison, Suzan-Lori Parks, Natasha Trethewey, Roxane Gay, Tayari Jones, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, use liminality as a trope to explore how Black women can transgress boundaries and establish their subjectivity. My conceptualization of liminality engages the scholarly work of anthropologist Victor Turner and Black feminist thinkers, such as bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Kimberly Nichele Brown, L.H. Stallings, and Elizabeth Alexander. Ultimately, my dissertation argues that even while these texts foreground the quandary of Black women as intersectional beings, Black women writers illustrate liminality as a survival tactic for Black women to protect the self, assert agency, and map out spaces for themselves.