The Black Body in Ecstasy

Reading Race, Reading Pornography

The Black Body in Ecstasy

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

More about this series

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 40 photographs Published: March 2014

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Sex and Sexuality, Media Studies > Film

In The Black Body in Ecstasy, Jennifer C. Nash rewrites black feminism's theory of representation. Her analysis moves beyond black feminism's preoccupation with injury and recovery to consider how racial fictions can create a space of agency and even pleasure for black female subjects. Nash's innovative readings of hardcore pornographic films from the 1970s and 1980s develop a new method of analyzing racialized pornography that focuses on black women's pleasures in blackness: delights in toying with and subverting blackness, moments of racialized excitement, deliberate enactments of hyperbolic blackness, and humorous performances of blackness that poke fun at the fantastical project of race. Drawing on feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, and media studies, Nash creates a new black feminist interpretative practice, one attentive to the messy contradictions—between delight and discomfort, between desire and degradation—at the heart of black pleasures.


The Black Body in Ecstasy is an excellent example of a ‘loving critique’ of a tense field...Nash’s intentional, clear structuring and synthesis, and her fascinating interventions provide a solid basis for future scholars in this field.” — Laura Abbasi-Lemmon, Journal of Gender Studies

"[E]ssential reading for anyone seeking to understand new work on feminism, critical race studies, pornography, and film history." — Svati P. Shah, Women's Review of Books

"...[Nash's] alternative readings do give readers insight into the tropes within pornography, and into how certain films upset racist and sexist industry practices, as well as upsetting the Black feminist theoretical archive’s theories of representation and resistance in favor of a Black feminist theory of sexual subjectivities of pleasure and ecstasy. Nash has earned her place among a new generation of Black feminist scholars"  — Sherri L. Barnes, Feminist Collections

"The Black Body in Ecstasy poses a fresh set of questions as it forwards a groundbreaking black feminist approach to contending with representations of black women’s ecstatic corporeality." — Jennifer DeClue, GLQ

"The Black Body in Ecstasy makes an important contribution, and is essential reading for anyone interested in how black women are depicted within hard-core visual pornography." — Fiona Proudfoot, Media International Australia

"[T]his work is a significant contribution to feminist porn studies and to the analysis of representations and images of black bodies and black female desire and sexuality. The Black Body in Ecstasy starts a new conversation within feminist porn studies, an original, provocative discussion of the multiple identities and ecstasies that can be located in instances of rupture in pornographic films." — Siobahn Stiles, Hypatia

"In The Black Body in Ecstasy, Jennifer C. Nash abandons a long-standing framework in black feminist criticism: that pornography is bad to and for black women. She boldly reads pornography for black women's ecstasy. Through careful analysis of key films from porn's golden era, Nash develops an argument that is innovative, fearless, and, ultimately, affirming of possibilities for black women's bodies, fantasies, and sexual lives." — Nicole R. Fleetwood, author of Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness

"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


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction. Reading Race, Reading Pornography 1

1. Archives of Pain: Reading the Black Feminist Theoretical Archive 27

2. Speaking Sex / Speaking Race: Lialeh and the Blax-porn-tation Aesthetic 59

3. Race-Pleasures: Sexworld and the Ecstatic Black Female Body 83

4. Laughing Matters: Race-Humor on the Pornographic Screen 107

5. On Refusal: Racial Promises and the Silver Age Screen 128

Conclusion. Reading Ecstasy 146

Notes 153

Bibliography 181

Index 213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5620-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5605-9
Publicity material