In this conversation, composed through written correspondence, Julie Beth Napolin and Amanda Armstrong-Price discuss aspects of Denise Riley’s “Am I That Name?” in light of contemporary feminist debates, including debates within black feminism and transfeminism. The authors begin by considering the significance of Riley’s unconventional title, outlining what might be at stake—and what might be occluded—in the title’s allusion to Sojourner Truth’s interjection, “Ain’t I a woman?” Allusion and juxtaposition form key aspects of Riley’s approach to historical representation, which involves reading sources on sex and gender for what they say about adjacent historical categories and constellating discrepant historical situations in ways that speak to ongoing conundrums about identity and alliance. With respect to the latter, the authors consider the historical situation—in feminism and more generally—that occasioned Riley’s 1988 work while also reading her work in relation to the challenges of our current moment. Riley’s phenomenological account of the inconstancy of gendered being is read for its resonances with contemporary transfeminist work while her broader oeuvre is brought to bear on some of the scraps of phobic common sense—the voices without mouths—that circulate online and work to forestall what remain urgent acts of alliance.

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