No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Friday, June 17, 2011

Iconic Photo: Photo 19

bell hooks

Raised in racially segregated Kentucky in a family with five sisters and one brother, Gloria Jean Watkins was able to successfully transition into an integrated high school and then go on to receive a BA in English from Stanford University in 1973. She then went on to earn a Masters degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a PhD from University of California, Santa Cruz.

Soon after beginning her teaching career Watkins began publishing chapbooks of her own poetry under the pen name "bell hooks"--the name taken from her mother's middle name, and her grandmother's last name. Watkins explained that she kept the name in lower case in order to distinguish herself from her grandmother and to show that the name represented the substance of her writing, rather than herself.

hooks first major work was published in 1981, Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, but had actually been written during her own undergraduate education at Stanford. The book quickly gained widespread recognition and is considered one of the formative early texts of postmodern feminist thought considering the intersection of class and race in contemporary social dynamics.

Though hooks has had no difficulty gaining University level teaching positions she intentionally avoided accepting tenure, realizing that the formality and its implications to the security of bureaucratic academic life were not what she wanted. She has published over 30 books on subjects ranging from race and gender, to love, to teaching, to personal memoirs.

In 2004 she returned to Kentucky to write within the Appalachian Studies Center at Berea College, in Berea, Kentucky. She continues too to do workshops and gives talks throughout the United States.

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