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The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies) Hardcover – 25 May 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (25 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822356058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822356059
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 2.5 cm

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Product Description


"This is an important book and its readers will know it. The first chapter on black feminist theories of representation brilliantly contextualizes the political stakes of the book's commitment to black women's pleasure. I predict that "The Black Body in Ecstasy" will be considered the most definitive statement to date on black feminist theory's engagement with visual representation."--Robyn Wiegman, author of"Object Lessons"

About the Author

Jennifer C. Nash is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women's Studies at George Washington University.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A new generation of black feminist thought on sexuality, pleasure, and porn 25 July 2014
By Profedeambiente - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is urgent and exacting. It is meticulously crafted, rigorously executed and a joy to read. Deploying incredibly precise close readings, Nash uses pornography in order to make an argument about the need to create a theoretical opening that might allow possibilities for imagining the sexual pleasure of African American women. This is an urgent intervention into what she terms the "twin logics of injury and recovery." She argues that such limited logic makes the possibility of representing the sexual pleasure of black women "unthinkable." Her literature review of the existing scholarship on black female sexuality is full of nuance, even as she persuasively demonstrates the limits of much of that work in relation to the complicated messy realities of sexuality. That chapter alone restructures the kinds of conversations we are able to have about pleasure, sexuality, abjection and race; it will no doubt soon become a "go-to" piece for classes in feminist theory. Critiquing the canon of black feminist thought takes courage; Nash goes there without losing the love and respect for the generations of African American feminist scholars that preceded her. Throughout the book, Nash performs these delightful close readings of a small collection of films that she uses to make very specific arguments about race, sex, female pleasure and pornography. Race in this context becomes a technique, a practice, a gesture, a possibility that toys with forms of representations. The chapter on Blax-porn-tation is pure gold! She also devotes an entire chapter to humor, a complicated subject--especially when it engages race, gender, sexuality and abjection--and she brings a fresh, smart perspective to her readings. This book is both radiant and very accessible, very teachable and an important paradigm shift in feminist of color thought. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
the agony and the ecstasy 3 Nov. 2014
By Case Quarter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
women in porn, specifically, black women in porn, and the body of the black woman as represented in non-pornographic photography and film used as pornographic or filtered through the pornographic, are topics comprising Jennifer nash’s THE BLACK BODY IN ECSTASY.

included in the text are grainy black and white photos of graphic images from pornographic films which some readers will find prurient. was the image of the venus hottentot as prurient? depending on the uses the representations of her were intended to serve at a given historical moment, the answer is yes.

some black feminists have written that all representations of black women not created by black women are harmful, most black feminist scholars agreeing that porn images of black women are harmful representations of black women as wounded by the violence of porn. some feminists have stated that pornography is more than imagery, that pornographic imagery is in itself an act of violence. this ‘black feminist theoretical archive…enforces a view of view of visual culture that makes it impossible to theorize black female pleasure from within the confines of the archive.’

nash’s mission is to expand space to show pleasure and ecstasy of black women within and beyond porn. for black feminists preoccupied with ‘recovery work…black feminist representation that attempts to salvage the black female body from the violence of the visual field.’

nash’s study is fourth generation scholarship of porn, the three preceding generations, anti-porn, pro-porn, and radical porn, the participants within pornography as sex workers. from representations, beginning with photos of, saartjie baartman, the woman known as the venus hotentot, nash traces the historical line of the representation of the body of the black woman as defined by the gaze of white men as pleasurable and humorous to the gaze of black women who, within the space of pornography, find their own sexual pleasure and humor.

discussing the silver age of porn, the 1980s, the shift from theater, the golden age of the 1970s, to home viewing, she reads photo representation, title and blurb on the box of the video BLACK THROAT as promising racial difference of a sex act. nash chooses not to accept the transparent sex act shared by members of two different races as the difference. nash cites the cinematic failure to fulfil the promise that a sex act with a black woman reveals some uniquely racial difference, any more than the crude barbaric pseudo-scientific practices to which the body of saartjie baartman was subjected long after her death.

other forms of pleasure and ecstasy for black women within pornography, which nash seems to suggests, can be found not just in sexual acts but also in singing, religious exclamations and spiritual rituals, and as much as these forms of expression may be termed nearly exclusive to black women, recognized within pornography these acts of pleasure and healing as positive are transformative and certainly worth noting, and, for scholarship, worth recovering.

nash’s book makes for highly interesting reading which will certainly open fresh dialogues and invite questioning. on a generalized level THE BLACK BODY IN ECSTASY provides new ways of looking at all manner of images, printed and kinetic, in which black women are included or thought about when they are absent.
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