Class Notes: The Black Feminist Politics Of Pleasure

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.03.42 PMHey Racializens!

I am still at Stanford (and will be until June.) But I am bringing back an old tradition of doing class notes on some of these ideas.


Joan Morgan, hip-hop feminism pioneer, has been moving her work into conversations around pleasure and sexual politics. Jeff Chang, hip-hopper-about-town and the head of Stanford’s Institue for Diversity in the Arts, asked Joan if she’d like the be the artist in residence for WinterQuarter. Joan agreed and then developed a class called “The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure.”

The Course

“The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Power” (CSRE127B) will explore the various articulations of a politics of pleasure in black feminist thought. We will examine classic black feminist texts on respectability politics, the erotic, hip-hop feminism, and dancehall culture, geared toward helping students develop a critical lens for interrogating depictions of black female sexuality and articulations of pleasure in popular culture. Examples include “The Cosby Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Girlfriends,” “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Pariah,” as well as the works of Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Tanya Stephens, and Lady Saw.

The course will culminate with multimedia student-produced texts that represent their own articulations of a politics of pleasure. Students will discuss their ideas as part of a campus-wide symposium that will include a panel of black feminist scholars/thinkers who are also deeply invested in theorizing a politics of pleasure and creating safe erotic spaces for black and brown bodies.

Twitter #PleasurePolitics

I’ve been livetweeting the course, and will continue to do so each Wednesday at 2:15 PM PT. Here are a few of the most popular tweets from last week:

"Columbus has landed on La Isla, gun and dick in hand."

No one seems like they are enjoying the sex on Girls.  But do they even know what they want?

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Selected Themes and Readings

Blackouts: Erasure, “Deviants” and Undesirables

READ/WATCH: E. Frances White, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen: The Alchemy of Race and Sexuality”, Dark Continent of Our Bodies: Black Feminism and the Politics of Respectability (151-184)
Tavia Nyong’o, “The Night’s Eye: Almagation, Respectability and Shame”, The Amalgamation Waltz (69-102)
Hill, “Black Women’s Love Relationships” (149-172)
“No If, Ands, Or Butts” Sex in the City, Season 3 *
“Boy Interrupted” Sex in the City, Season 6 Episode 10 *

Response Paper #4:
Both “Sex in the City” and the “Nightline” specials were social phenomena among black female viewers. Using White and Nyong’o reflections on absence, erasure, and respectability and Hill’s on relationships, think about how the ways the videos speak to the existing narrative on black women. How would a politics of pleasure begin to “talk back”? What would say?

WEEK SIX: (2/13)
Thiefing Sugar: Pleasure and The (Im)Possible Pt.1

Last Response Paper #5:
At this point in the semester, we are beginning to (re)frame the narrative on pleasure. Being mindful of the Griffin piece and the other theoretical works prior, discuss how pleasure functions in both “Wench” and the “Scandal” episode. What possibilities do they offer (or lack) for a politics of pleasure?

WEEK SEVEN: (2/20)
Queered Possibilities

WEEK EIGHT: (2/27)
PT 1 Sex Work, Pleasure and The Ratchet – Guest Lecture by Dr. Treva B. Lindsey

WEEK NINE: (3/6)
Rude Gyal Feminisms and Diasporic Possibilities

Hope you join us!

  • disqus_jgyrjbICxu

    Is there anyway to post course handouts online?