"There's something transformative about black queer relationships that can reshape the way we think about power dynamics. There's something that might help us think about justice in different ways if we look at a variety of family styles and family practices and family lives."

Think about the family models we most often see in U.S. society: white people, straight families and a middle class standard. Professor Nikki Young, women's and gender studies, looks at those models and wonders what other ways of living are practiced. 

Her work intersects with Christian social ethics, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race theory. She has focused primarily on black queer families as a group that serves as an excellent model for exploring the different ways people live in relationship with one another. She explains, "There's something transformative about black queer relationships that can reshape the way we think about power dynamics. There's something that might help us think about justice in different ways if we look at a variety of family styles and family practices and family lives." 

Young has found that many black queer families try to resist a capitalistic paradigm within their familial bonds. Instead, the focus is less on what people owe each other and more on what people can offer one another in their relationships. This perspective becomes important in families often pushed to the outside by the mainstream. 

Young is incorporating her ideas about relationships into her recent work on the concept of freedom. Instead of looking at freedom as a way to preserve individuality, she approaches it as a balance between self-actualization and accountability. "Being in relationship with people positively is a way of being who you are, of being free to exist," she says. "Freedom is not in opposition to relationships, but is enhanced because of them." 

Relationships lie at the heart of Young's approach to teaching, as well. "One of the things I've appreciated about Bucknell is the commitment to participating in community that our faculty and students embrace. Forging relationships outside of the classroom helps the students see that they can think about the world through the critical lenses they've developed in the classroom, and they can bring the world that they're experiencing into the classroom. What you do, the way that you behave, the decisions that you make affect what you learn." 

Posted October 10, 2013

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