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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“We Are Free to Be Who We Choose:” Black Girlhood, Freedom-Making, & the Aesthetics of Refusal

  • Author(s): Thompson, Amoni Miriam
  • Advisor(s): Miller-Young, Mireille
  • et al.

This MA thesis uses ethnographic interviews and visual analysis to explore how Black girls make use of movement, language, and art in their efforts to position a subjectivity of their own making. I analyze interviews and visual/performance art made by girls in the after-school program of a nonprofit center in Atlanta, GA, to demonstrate how Black girls contend with narratives of respectability and logics of surveillance imposed inside the program, and in the girls’ lives outside of it. I examine the meanings associated with the term ‘ratchet’ and how Black girls mobilize the term as an aesthetic of refusal through nail art, dance, and altar art. Black girls use these art forms to consider self-representation and the makings of freedom. I conclude that Black girls’ aesthetic practices of girlhood generate ontologies and aesthetics of refusal.

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