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Building Houses out of Chicken Legs : Black Women, Food, and Power - Psyche A. Williams-Forson

Building Houses out of Chicken Legs

Black Women, Food, and Power


Published: 1st June 2006
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Chicken--both the bird and the food--has played multiple roles in the lives of African American women from the slavery era to the present. It has provided food and a source of income for their families, shaped a distinctive culture, and helped women define and exert themselves in racist and hostile environments. Psyche A. Williams-Forson examines the complexity of black women's legacies using food as a form of cultural work. While acknowledging the negative interpretations of black culture associated with chicken imagery, Williams-Forson focuses her analysis on the ways black women have forged their own self-definitions and relationships to the "gospel bird."

Exploring material ranging from personal interviews to the comedy of Chris Rock, from commercial advertisements to the art of Kara Walker, and from cookbooks to literature, Williams-Forson considers how black women arrive at degrees of self-definition and self-reliance using certain foods. She demonstrates how they defy conventional representations of blackness in relationship to these foods and exercise influence through food preparation and distribution. Understanding these phenomena clarifies how present interpretations of blacks and chicken are rooted in a past that is fraught with both racism and agency. The traditions and practices of feminism, Williams-Forson argues, are inherent in the foods women prepare and serve.

"[Williams-Forson's] interdisciplinary methods--incorporating literature, print culture, history, personal interviews, and media studies--yield fascinating insights. . . . ["Building Houses out of Chicken Legs"] shows the potential of interdisciplinary study of food culture."-"American Quarterly" "A highly informative read. . . . I am sure it will become a permanent part of the foodway canon. Williams-Forson is an excellent writer who has done some interesting research and pieced together a highly readable book." -- "The Journal of Folklore" "Likely to prove useful to students of cultural identity and stereotype." -- "Western Folklore" "Forces the reader to think carefully about the role of food in black women's history. And this alone, as one cookbook author might say, is a good thing." -- "American Historical Review" "I cannot recall an occasion on which I learned so much from a single text."Trudier Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill "This is a wonderful book, a thoroughly researched, wonderfully conceptualized, and well-written study."Amy Bentley, New York University

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Encounters with the Bird
We Called Ourselves Waiter Carriersp. 13
"Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd": Black Men, Visual Imagery, and the Ideology of Fearp. 38
Gnawing on a Chicken Bone in My Own House: Cultural Contestation, Black Women's Work, and Classp. 80
Traveling the Chicken Bone Expressp. 114
Say Jesus and Come to Me: Signifying and Church Foodp. 135
African American Women and Gender Malpractice
Taking the Big Piece of Chickenp. 165
Still Dying for Some Soul Food?p. 186
Flying the Coop with Kara Walkerp. 199
Epilogue: From Train Depots to Country Buffetsp. 219
Notesp. 225
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 303
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780807856864
ISBN-10: 080785686X
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st June 2006
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 17.15  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.48
Edition Type: New edition