On October 13-14 2017, the Black Studies Department at Mizzou will host its annual Black Studies Fall Conference. This two-day conference encourages critical dialogue among scholars, community members, undergraduate and graduate students, and sex practitioners on two topics that have remained largely neglected within the field of Black/African-American Studies: sex and pleasure. The conference will take place in Columbia, Missouri on the Mizzou campus and with partnering community organizations.
We position Stacey Patton’s provocative essay, "Who's Afraid of Black Sexuality in The Chronicle of Higher Education, as a starting point for thinking through how silence about sex and pleasure has “left a gap in the classroom and in black studies scholarship.” While prominent black feminist scholars have illuminated histories of black women’s sexual violation under slavery and their counter-resistance, the culture of dissemblance in black communities to shield themselves from racism, and sexual ideologies that fueled Jim Crow legislation and lynching – few have said anything about “black sexual agency, pleasure and intimacy, or same-sex relationships.” Instead, black sexuality is exclusively positioned in relation to white violation, dehumanization and the larger project of positioning black folks as subhuman.
While this gap has been undertaken in the fields of black (queer) studies (E. Patrick Johnson, Robert Reid Pharr, Cathy Cohen) and queer of color critique (Rod Ferguson) alongside grassroots organizations such as ActUP, new scholarship in black sexuality studies suggests that “although the dynamics of respectability have evolved they are not any less insidious.” These new inquires reveal how respectability politics serves as a neo-colonialist measure in which respectability becomes a primary technique of power and knowledge, while suggesting how anti-respectability as a methodology can “carve new territories for Black and Gender Studies, respectively.” This new cohort strategically centers black women’s and men’s pleasure seeking endeavors through nuanced discussions on sex work, pornography and other highly consumed forms of media within the realm of popular culture and archives they create (Mali D. Collins-White, Ariane Cruz, Jillian Hernandez, Xavier Livermon, Kaila Story & Jennifer Nash (2016) "Disruption in Respectability: A Roundtable Discussion," Souls, 18:2-4, 463-475).
Topics to be discussed (but are not limited to) the following:
* Religion and spirituality
* Black trans* experiences
* The politics of “recovery work”
* Labor, migration and sexuality
* Race, gender and disability studies
* Youth, black girls and moral panics
* Trans-generational relationships in black feminism
* The AIDS crisis, race and “safe sex” initiatives/criminalization
* Student activism, intramural policing and self-care
* Domestic violence and sex abuse in black churches
* Illicit Eroticism – BDSM, pornography and sex work
* Teaching and researching about black (queer) sexuality studies and/or respectability in the U.S. Midwest/South
*Teaching and researching about black (queer) sexuality in historical contexts
*Institutional research limitations in deploying anti-respectability as methodology
Conference Organizer: Christina Carney, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Black Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Missouri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Department Assistant: Mary Beth Brown, History Ph.D. Candidate, University of Missouri, (BroMary@missouri.edu)