The Ethnography of Ratchet: Studying Language Practices of the Black (Queer) Middle-Class

  • Nikki Lane


I conducted ethnographic fieldwork between 2012 and 2016 for my research about what was colloquially referred to as the Scene in DC among Black Queer Women (BQW). The BQW’s Scene is an amorphous, loosely connected set of social networks comprised of BQW and their allies, as well as the spaces those social networks create to socialize (Lane 2015). I refer to these spaces, where the Scene was most often instantiated, as scene spaces. Scene spaces included sites such as house parties, book club, social support groups, professional women’s sporting events, semi-private parties at restaurants, lounges, and bars. Additionally, musical performances by queer artists, burlesque shows, one-off Black queer-themed events, and Meetups organized by Black queer people were also scene spaces. During my fieldwork, I made it a point to go to all of the scene spaces that were available to me so when I was invited to Timi’s birthday celebration at a “Women’s Happy Hour” a new gay bar just off U Street, I happily accepted. There were five of us, including the birthday girl, standing together amongst the crowd. We stood nursing our drinks and, as is customary at happy hours with casual acquaintances, we engaged in small talk and someone asked me, “Oh, so what do you do?”


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikki Lane
    • 1
  1. 1.Washington, DCUSA

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