Black Sexual Economies Project

The Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital creates and supports several interdisciplinary projects organized around topical themes. The Black Sexual Economies Project is one such project. This project seeks to craft new paradigms for thinking about race, gender, and sexuality in tandem.  Most studies of race and sexuality have emphasized injury, trauma, and representation.  This project emphasizes other, under-attended factors in the analysis of black sexual cultures, including pleasure, regulation, labor, consumption, and production.  It will take an interdisciplinary approach that combines a focus on law and legal regulation with analyses of identity politics; networks of sexual exchange; social policy; and literature, media, and cultural performances.   

Consisting of a working group of faculty from diverse universities and led by Project Director/Co-Convener Professor Adrienne Davis of Washington University Law, and Co-Convener Mireille Miller-Young, Feminist Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, the first session was held May 2010. The goal of the project is to stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue that will influence the development of theory and research in black sexuality studies in ways that would not have occurred absent the opportunity of this interdisciplinary forum.

Black Sexual Economies Project research scholars

The Black Sexual Economies Project is a working group of eight scholars from seven U.S. research universities who are working in the fields of Law, English, African Diaspora Studies, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Film & Media Studies, History, American Studies and Performing Arts.  Designed as a four-year working group, the Project’s goal is to craft new paradigms for thinking about race, gender, and sexuality through open dialogue and papers that will culminate in a public conference in 2013. 

Most studies of race and sexuality have emphasized injury, trauma, and representation. This project emphasizes other, under-attended factors in the analysis of black sexual cultures, including pleasure, regulation, labor, consumption, and production. The project embraces an explicitly interdisciplinary approach that combines a focus on law and legal regulation with analyses of identity politics; networks of sexual exchange; social policy; and literature, media, and cultural performances.

From Hip-Hop video culture, to the Duke Lacrosse rape case, to the public outcry about black men on the so called “down low,” black sexualities have been constructed as a site of sexual panics and pathologies in mainstream popular discourse in the U.S. Moreover, legal, economic, medical-scientific, and social discourses and institutions also categorize, deploy, and police black sexualities, constructing them as a “threat” to normative bourgeois sexuality. Despite the rich histories of black subjects’ attempts to define their own sexual identities, desires, and communities, we know very little about black sexual cultures and economies. We contend that black sexualities cannot be understood outside of their background institutions, cultural practices, and networks of production, consumption, distribution, and exchange. In addition, the Project Research Scholars explicitly theorize black sexual subjects’ efforts to represent and recuperate their bodies, desires, and communities from the colonizing projects of the West.

The Black Sexual Economies Project interrogates the dominant institutions and discourses of sexuality that have colonized black bodies in the West. Through analyses of literary and media texts, cultural performances, circuits of sexual labor, and markets for production and consumption, our work attempts to theorize the generation and articulation of black sexuality in the U.S. Grappling with the continuing forces of racialized slavery, systemic violence, poverty and segregation, criminalization and incarceration, HIV/AIDS and sexual health policy, corporate media, popular culture, and new technologies in the circulation of black sexual cultures, our research objective is to expand the intersectional study of sexuality and race in America.

Black Sexual Economies: Transforming Black Sexualities Research Conference
September 27-28, 2013
    

Previous Project Sessions

Black Sexual Economies Project research
scholars - September 2011
 
Black Sexual Economies Project research
scholars - October 2012
 
  • Fourth session was held on October 13-14, 2012.
  • Third session was held on September 17-18, 2011.
  • The project convened its first public presentation of research at the 9th Annual Conference of the Collegium for African American Research in Paris, France, April 6-9, 2011. The Paris conference focused on the conditions of social transformation in the black world, including a BSE Project panel on “From Ballroom to Brokeback: Power and Desire in Black Sexual Economies and Black Culture.”
  • Second session was held on September 17-19, 2010. 
  • First session was held on May 8, 2010.

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The Art of Collecting: Art reflects law prof's evolving views on race, gender.

In her 20s, Adrienne Davis’ focus on race, gender and identity was well defined. Her research as a Yale Law School student and young law professor centered on critical race theory, or the ways in which racism is institutionalized in American society, a theme mirrored by her early art purchases. more... 


Washington University Law • Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital
Marion Crain, Vice Provost, Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital
Shelly Henderson, Administrative Coordinator, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital shenderson@wulaw.wustl.edu
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