Faculty-Graduate Seminar 2016–17: Sexuality in African American Communities and Cultures

Tuesday afternoons 4:30-6:00pm, Stanhope Hall, Barfield – Johnson Seminar Room (201)
Tuesday afternoons 4:30-6:00pm, Stanhope Hall, Barfield – Johnson Seminar Room (201)

Faculty Convener: Wallace Best

Sexuality has long been contested terrain in American society, but perhaps particularly within African-American contexts.  The journey from slavery to freedom has been marked by black Americans’ fraught attempts to take ownership of their sexual selves in light of a history of exploitation and racist caricature. Images of the hyper-sexualized black male and the promiscuous and sexually irresponsible black female pervade popular music, literature, and film, giving shape to political discourse and public policy.  Although there have been some notable shifts in public perception and legal strides with regard to LGBT rights, the construction of black sexual identities continues to face formidable odds within many black communities and the larger society more generally. African-American Studies as a scholarly enterprise has addressed these matters from a robust interdisciplinary perspective, and in that tradition we will engage scholars, cultural critics, and social activists from across the fields of history, religion, anthropology, sociology, literature, journalism, and cultural studies.  The seminar will explore a range of topics including various sexual identities and performances, same-sex marriage, sex, religion and the church, the “down low” phenomenon, gender and transgender identities, and sex and popular culture.

The African American Studies Faculty-Graduate seminar is an intimate intellectual community. Our goal is to establish a small but intellectually diverse and committed group of scholars who will attend all meetings and engage in sustained discourse during the year. Given these goals and the limited meeting space, we will be accepting only ten (10) graduate students into each semester’s seminar. We encourage graduate students to commit to both semesters and preference for spring registration will be given to students engaged in the fall seminar.

Among the themes we hope to consider over the course of the year:

• Transgender Identities
• Homosociality
• Intersex Bodies
• Gendered Social Practices
• Sexual and Religious Freedom
• Sex and Violence
• Queer Art
• Sex and Sacred Texts
• Taboo
• Hetero/Homo-normativities
• Gender Identities and Performances
• Sexual Discretion
• Feminism and Black Feminism
• Non-Normative Encounters
• The “Closet”
• Contagion
• Gender, Sexuality, and the Law
• Same-Sex Marriage
• Masculinities
• Prison Sex

If you are a graduate student interested in joining the 2016 – 2017 Faculty-Graduate Seminar, please email Dionne Worthy (dworthy@princeton.edu).