Forthcoming publication from Draper gender politics professor Amber Musser!

Draper gender politics professor Amber Musser has an exciting new book, Sensational Flesh, forthcoming from NYU Press! More details below.

Sensational Flesh
Race, Power, and Masochism

Amber Jamilla Musser

272 p., 2 halftones | $24.00 Paper

A lively and enlightening contribution to queer studies, investigating affect and embodiment as avenues for the radical reinvigoration of how we experience and think about raced, gendered, and sexualized subjectivities. Masterful in her engagement with queer, feminist, and psychoanalytic theory and their historical contexts, Musser provides incisive analyses that make for exhilarating and highly informative reading.”
—Darieck Scott, author of Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary

Part of the Sexual Cultures Series

E-book also available.

In everyday language, masochism is usually understood as the desire to abdicate control in exchange for sensation—pleasure, pain, or a combination thereof. Yet at its core, masochism is a site where power, bodies, and society come together. Sensational Flesh uses masochism as a lens to examine how power structures race, gender, and embodiment in different contexts.

Drawing on rich and varied sources—from 19th century sexology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory to literary texts and performance art—Amber Jamilla Musser employs masochism as a powerful diagnostic tool for probing relationships between power and subjectivity. Engaging with a range of debates about lesbian S&M, racialization, femininity, and disability, as well as key texts such as Sacher-Masoch’sVenus in Furs, Pauline Réage’s The Story of O, and Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Musser renders legible the complex ways that masochism has been taken up by queer, feminist, and critical race theories. Furthering queer theory’s investment in affect and materiality, she proposes “sensation” as an analytical tool for illustrating what it feels like to be embedded in structures of domination such as patriarchy, colonialism, and racism and what it means to embody femininity, blackness, and pain. Sensational Flesh is ultimately about the ways in which difference is made material through race, gender, and sexuality and how that materiality is experienced. 

Amber Jamilla Musser is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

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