Thugs, black divas, and gendered aspirations

Aimee Cox

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This essay presents ethnographic data from more than five years of fieldwork at the Fresh Start shelter and among African-American young women living in greater Detroit to contextualize an analysis of how the sexual identities of low-income women of color are framed by the racialized and class-based expectations of nonprofit community organizations, the welfare system, and vocational-training programs. Young black women living in postindustrial Detroit must navigate these overlapping social service networks on a daily basis and, in the process, discover the most efficacious strategies for achieving social and economic mobility. However, in the context of the Fresh Start shelter and other youth assistance programs, young women rework and disrupt identity categories in ways that demonstrate their sophistication in subverting the race and gender hierarchies that threaten their potential success. In claiming ownership of their ability to define and continually redefine their sexual identities, while staging performances of self in public and private spaces, young black women reveal their understanding of gender and its expression as inherently dynamic and unstable.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)113-141
    Number of pages29
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2009


    • Gender and sexuality
    • Homelessness
    • Social services
    • Welfare system
    • Young black women

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Sociology and Political Science


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