Thursday, February 26, 2015

Women Write the Mediterranean: A Transnational Symposium in Memory of Anna Maria Ortese

This transnational symposium addresses the relationship between women writers and the modern Mediterranean, considered as a diverse region of interconnected histories and identities, with a particular focus on the Italian novelist Anna Maria Ortese (1914-1998). In its unprecedented tensions and oscillations between vivid realism and visionary transcendence, reportage and utopia, modernist allegory and postmodern fluidity, Ortese’s innovative work suggests many possible parallels with that of other important modern and contemporary Mediterranean/European women writers, from Fatema Mernissi, Hélène Cixous and Assia Djebar to lesser-known figures such as Leda Rafanelli, Etel Adnan, Maïssa Bey, and Nagwa Sha‘ban, among others. 

Although raised in Naples—a quintessential Mediterranean city that she portrayed in documentary style in her early writings—Ortese lived for a time in Libya, when that country was still an Italian colony under Fascism. As a self-taught female writer from the historically underdeveloped and colonized South of Italy, a former involuntary colonizer in North Africa, and a woman who lived most of her nomadic and solitary existence in dire poverty, Ortese epitomizes the experience of displacement, loss and exile common to many Mediterranean women writers. 

This symposium will explore the ways in which the experiences of Ortese and other creative women contributed to the emergence of a unique, unconventional approach to literature and ethics. The symposium stresses the importance of looking at women’s writing that imagines and defines the Mediterranean as a transnational, métissé, multi-confessional, cross-cultural space, offering an alternative to the divisive, oppositional model represented by national, ethnic, religious, linguistic, or continental affiliations. The question of what the modern Mediterranean is, and how it may be defined, understood or imagined has been considered by many male thinkers, critics and writers, but the perspectives of female writers have rarely been studied comparatively or taken into account. “Women Write the Mediterranean” will reflect on the possibility of a transnational critical conversation and dialogue about modern women writers and their work on Mediterranean-related themes and problems.


Thursday, March 5, 2015 USC
Doheny Library, Academic Commons, DML 233

3:00 pm.  Welcome
Peter Mancall, Vice Dean of the Humanities, USC Dornsife
Natania Meeker, Chair USC Dornsife French and Italian Department

3:15-4:30 pm

Chair: Bèatrice Mousli Bennett
Director, Francophone Research & Resource Center USC

Cristina Della Coletta
Dean of Arts and Humanities UC San Diego

Anna Maria Ortese and the Mediterranean Uncanny

Lucia Re
Department of Italian and Department of Department of Gender Studies, UCLA

Ulysses or Penelope? Italian Women Philosophers, Narrators and Poets of the

4:30-5:00 pm  Coffee Break

5:00-6:30 pm

Hala Halim
Department Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and, NYU

The Mediterranean Cosmopolitics of Nagwa Sha‘ban’s Nawwat al-Karm

Andrea Baldi
Department of Italian, Rutgers University

Resisting Modernity: Anna Maria’s Ortese Negotiations with the South

Friday, March 6
UCLA – Royce Hall 236

9:00am Welcome
Tom Harrison, Chair UCLA Department of Italian
Alessandro Duranti, UCLA Dean of Social Sciences
David Schaberg, UCLA Dean of the Humanities

9:15-10:30 am

Chair: Gil Hochberg
Department of Comparative Literature UCLA

Barbara Spackman
Department of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies, UC Berkeley

From Italy to Egypt: The Ethnomasquerade of Leda Rafanelli

Gian Maria Annovi
Dornsife Department of French and Italian, USC

Anna Maria Ortese and the “Mediterranean Effect”

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 pm

Olivia Harrison
Dornsife Department of French and Italian, USC

Etel Adnan’s Transcolonial Mediterranean

Lia Brozgal
Department of French, UCLA

«Aux oubliettes de l’histoire» : Maïssa Bey’s Microhistories

12:30-1:00 Q&A and Concluding Remarks

Event organized by USC Department of French and Italian and UCLA Department of Italian; made possible with the support of: UCLA Dean of the Humanities; Dean of the Social Sciences; Department of Gender Studies; Center for the Studies of Women; Department of French and Francophone Studies; USC Dean of Dornsife College; Francophone Research and Resource Center; Center for Feminist Research; Department of Comparative Literature; Middle East Studies Program; USC Libraries.

For additional information, please contact the organizers:
Gian Maria Annovi
Lucia Re

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kath Weston

A single body cannot bridge that mythical divide between insider and outsider, researcher and research. I am neither, in any simple way, and yet I am both. 

– Kath Weston, Longslowburn 

Having published widely on issues related kinship, gender, and sexuality, as well as poverty in the U.S., Kath Weston, professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Virginia, has recently turned her attention to surveillance technologies and the body. In an upcoming talk in the Life (Un)Ltd lecture series organized by CSW Associate Director Rachel Lee, Weston will discuss one of the case studies from her forthcoming book, Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World: “In the United States, the National Animal Identification System is a state-sponsored Big Data scheme that proposes to render each animal destined for the dinner table capable of being tracked and traced, in whole or in part, throughout its material existence, in the name of protecting public health and facilitating international trade.  The NAIS represents a historical shift away from prevention and inspection of food production facilities, toward an investment in trace-back operations that attempt to secure the nation's food supply by securing the animal body.  Under the scheme, each pig, sheep, and cow receives a ‘unique individual identifier’ sutured to its body using a range of surveillance devices and mapped onto a premises registry. What is at stake in the struggles over animal citizenship, bio-intimacy, and techno-intimacy that have ensued in the wake of implementation of the NAIS?” 

Weston has interests in political economy; political ecology and environmental issues; historical anthropology; science studies; and kinship, gender, and sexuality. Weston was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011, for “demonstrating exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” Her fieldwork and research pursuits have taken her to India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

Her work has long challenged the preoccupations and predilections of the academic social sciences. In Longslowburn: Sexuality and Social Science (1998), she “argues that despite the recent growth in gay and lesbian studies departments, sexuality is not a new topic for social science. She also suggests that sexuality should not be a ghettoized area of study but rather should be considered in relation to work, migration, family, and all the other core topics that concern social scientists.” According to Stefan Helmreich, Weston’s book, Gender in Real Time: Power and Transience in a Visual Age (2003) “is a provocative intervention into how critical cultural theory might engage the formulations of science and mathematics in order to think anew about how temporality contributes to the formation of gender, race, and sexuality, and other genres of social experience. Weston…argues that an accounting of time and its contingency is crucially missing from, or merely left implicit in, such work.” 

Her interest in the lived experiences of lesbians and gays animated two of her books, Render Me, Gender Me (1998) and Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship (1997). Render Me, Gender Me “challenges comfortable assumptions about gender by weaving…[her] own thought-provoking commentary together with the voices of lesbians from a variety of race and class backgrounds.” The Library Journal hailed the books, noting that “Weston's witty, lyrical writing style coupled with the voices of the interviewees makes this enjoyable for the lay reader.” In a review of Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship (1997) in Library Journal, Eric Bryant wrote “this book demands--and deserves--thorough and careful reading. With weighty prose, Weston, an anthropology professor, writes that gays and lesbians, long seen as exiles from kinship ties, are choosing to create their own families. Arguing that these "chosen" families cannot be understood apart from the "straight" families in which gays and lesbians grew up, she draws on interviews to describe gays' relationships with their straight families. Weston places her interpretation in perspective with historical and legal background information and extended quotations from interviewees.” 

In a recent book, Traveling Light: On the Road with America's Poor (2009), she rode the bus for five years to document what it’s like to be poor in America. A review in Publisher’s Weekly described the book, “In this accessible gem of a narrative, Weston makes a special contribution to the conversation (and glut of ethnographies) that seek to describe how the other half lives. Raised in the working-class outskirts of Chicago and trained as an anthropologist, the author is devoid of condescension or naïve astonishment as she zigzags across the country by bus—one of the last quasi-public spaces—swapping advice, snacks, favors, worldviews and nuggets of profound wisdom with her fellow travelers. Within these shared stories, Weston interweaves her own experiences in traveling on a limited budget with acute anthropological analysis. Attuned to the hardships of bus travel (no guaranteed seats after long waits to board, bad food at rest stops, hiked up prices for the poorest travelers), Weston is also refreshingly self-reflective on her own relative privilege (being white and a citizen, having a credit card). Although her writing occasionally reads like choppy journal entries, her simple observations are marked by a spare grace: Arrival is not all. Often the road is the thing. This book is a piece of 21st-century Americana in motion, and its characters and cities will resonate and linger with readers.” 

In her career as author, scholar, and activist, Weston has always been in motion, reimagining her research and her role in it. Please join us for a peek at what surely be another landmark book in the fields of anthropology, feminist studies, and science and technology studies when, on February 27, from 12 to 2 pm in Haines 352, Weston gives a talk titled “Old Macdonald Had a Database: Lessons from the National Animal Identification System.” 


Life (Un)Ltd presents Old Macdonald Had a Database: Lessons from the National Animal Identification System, Kath Weston, University of Virginia, February 27, 2015, from 12 to 2 pm in Haines 352 on the UCLA campus. 

For more info on the talk, visit 

For more info on Life (Un)Ltd, visit 

Political Ecologies of the Precarious, one of the essays in Weston’s upcoming book is available on,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

Inspired by Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth,” Kip Andersen changed his lifestyle to reflect a new consciousness of environmental concerns.  He later realized that despite these changes, there was another important environmental concern that needed to be addressed, although many environmentalists were not talking about it: animal agriculture, or factory farming.

In Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014), he set out, along with fellow filmmaker Keegan Kuhn, to obtain information about animal agriculture and its relationship with climate change.  Along the way, he spoke with leaders in the environmental movement and uncovered what he began to view as “an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture, while industry whistleblowers and watchdogs warn[ed] him of the risks to his freedom and even his life if he dare[d] to persist.”

According to the Huffington Post, “[Andersen] pulls no punches and makes no apologies: ‘The future of our planet is being destroyed by this industry.’ Hard to argue with the data.”  The film includes interviews with Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals), Dr. Will Tuttle (The World Peace Diet), and Dr. Richard Oppenlander (Food Choice and Sustainability).

There will be a screening panel and discussion at UCLA with the filmmakers Andersen and Kuhn on February 26th at 5pm.  The event will be moderated by Associate Professor Janet O'Shea, from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Directions in Black Feminism Studies: Tiffany Willoughby-Herard

Tiffany Willoughby-Herard is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at UC Irvine, and works on comparative racialization in the South African and North American contexts, Black political thought, and African feminisms. Her book, Waste of a White Skin: Carnegie and the Racial Logic of White Vulnerability, has just been published by UC Press. The publisher calls it “A pathbreaking history of the development of scientific racism, white nationalism, and segregationist philanthropy in the U.S. and South Africa in the early twentieth century, Waste of a White Skin focuses on the American Carnegie Corporation’s study of race in South Africa, the Poor White Study, and its influence on the creation of apartheid.” Using black feminism, black internationalism, and the black radical tradition, Willoughby-Herard explores the effect of politics of white poverty on black people’s life, work, and political resistance. In particular, this groundbreaking book examines the philanthropic institution of the Carnegie Foundation, contributed to the constitution of apartheid as a process of knowledge production in South Africa. Her manuscript examines U.S. complicity in constructing notions of whiteness, arguing that the Carnegie Commission Study of Poor Whites helped create knowledge production process central to apartheid, in particular scientific racialism. 

In so doing, she examines the role of this supposedly benevolent U.S. philanthropic organization in the production of social science knowledge as a form of legitimation for the racial violence of apartheid. She thus makes the argument that whiteness is a global phenomenon, one that links white racial formations transnationally, by demonstrating the ways in which the United States not only produced whiteness within its own territorial boundaries, but is implicated in white Afrikaner racial formation as well. As Dr. Willoughby-Herard demonstrates, The Carnegie Commission Study legitimated a number of violent practices that attempted to discipline poor whites into bourgeois respectability. These practices were very much organized around gender and sexual normativity, and included genetic monitoring, sterilization, mental testing, and forced removals and detentions. In this way, this essay demonstrates that eugenicist tactics were brought into being through deployment not only against non-whites, but on what she calls “contingent” whites as well. In so doing, Dr. Willoughby-Herard argues that whiteness is not a monolithic racial formation, but a complex and internally differentiated one. This project is thus an important contribution to whiteness studies, which tends to situate whiteness as simply privilege. By tracing the violent process by which poor whites were forced to become white, this project reveals the exact process of production and the precise effect of the scientific racialism that would underwrite the system of apartheid.

Willoughby-Herard’s talk in the New Directions in Black Feminist Studies lecture series, “I Write What I Like”: The Politics of Black Identity and Gendered Racial Consciousness in Meer’s The Black Woman Worker,” which takes place from 4 to 6 pm in Haines 135 on February 26, examines Fatima Meer’s Black Woman Worker: A Study in Patriarchy and Woman Production Workers in South Africa (1990), which raised critical questions about how the concept of gendered black consciousness articulated with racial colonialism, segregation, and apartheid.  Like other books published in its time, Black Woman Worker resulted from a robust confluence of political activity, autonomous research, and careful attention to the politics of publishing.  While the radical black feminism of that era was becoming coherent as a set of consistent political philosophies across the Americas and on the African continent, according to Willoughby-Herard, it was anticipating, laying ground work for, and helping to establish the publishing audience that constitutes current interests in comparative black feminist studies, black feminist internationalism, African feminisms, and African gender studies. Our histories of the making of “the working class” and “left” have been shaped forever by the role played by research on black working women as servants, migrant laborers, domestics, and enslaved people.  Following Pumla Gqola and Zine Magubane, she will examine and offer an account of how the contested and complex political identity of “blackness” was articulated in this moment, why this set of nested categories was necessary for Meer and her collaborators, and the cultural work that it did to bind together African, Indian, and so-called “Coloured” women in a context of extraordinary state and vigilante violence.

New Directions in Black Feminist Studies is a lecture series featuring three scholars who represent the best of contemporary Black feminist scholarship. This series will contribute to the renewed energy around African American studies at UCLA, with the recent departmentalization of African American Studies and Angela Davis’s recent residency in the Department of Gender Studies. It is curated by Grace Kyungwon Hong, organized by the Center for the Study of Women and cosponsored by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, Labor Studies Program, Institute for American Cultures, Department of English, Department of Gender Studies, Department of African American Studies, and International Institute. The speakers are Amber Jamilla Musser, an Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis; Talitha LeFlouria, an Assistant Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University; and Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at UC Irvine. All these scholars have new books that represent important new scholarship in the field. 


New Directions In Black Feminism Studies: Talitha LeFlouria

This bold, brilliant, beautifully written book--a significant contribution to the fields of prison history, southern history, African American history, and gender studies--shows why charting the struggles in convict women’s lives matters for understanding the emergence of modernity in the New South. Talitha L. LeFlouria rejects a recent and popular thesis that convict labor was simply slavery that persisted, while also illuminating how beliefs about race and sex forged in slavery carried on to shape modernity and the prison system.Mary Ellen Curtin, American University,|in her review of Chained in Silence

Talitha LeFlouria is Assistant Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University where she specializes in the study of Black women and convict labor in the post-Civil War South.  She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in African-American and African-American women’s history. She received her Ph.D. in History from Howard University. As a graduate student, she worked as a park ranger and a historian for the National Parks Service at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. In 2009, she authored a booklet titled, Frederick Douglass: A Watchtower of Human Freedom, which “weaves together the most intricate and personal facets of Douglass’ life, especially those preserved here at Cedar Hill.” Her research was featured in the 2012 Sundance-award–nominated documentary, Slavery by Another Name, based on Douglas Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book on convict leasing in the southern states.  

Also in 2012, her article, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Cuts Cordwood: Exploring Black Women’s Lives and Labor in Georgia’s Convict Camps, 1865-1917” (Labor 8:3 [2011], 47-63) was nominated for the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize from the Southern Association of Women Historians. This essay examines the historical context and design of Georgia’s forced convict labor system, as well as the women’s responses to the abuses they experienced as prisoners within the system. In the article, she describes how, as Southern states began to rebuild after the Civil War, white politicians and plantation owners attempted to maintain their racial privileges and to obtain cheap or low-cost labor that would allow many Southern industries to continue on as they had before the war. The convict labor system was one way to do this, as African Americans were disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system, and could be contracted out to work on major reconstruction projects, such as the Macon & Brunswick, Macon & Augusta, and Air-Line railroads. Black female prisoners, who made up approximately 3 to 5% of Georgia’s prison population, participated in these work projects, in addition to farming, brickmaking, and coal and iron production. The women experienced physical abuse, rape, and disease. In LeFlouria’s words, “The contest waged between black female convicts and their oppressors did not always result in victories. However, these women were willing to challenge encroachments on their self-worth and fought hard to preserve their humanity within a dehumanizing system built on terror and control” (p. 63).

Her new book Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South has recently been published by University of North Carolina Press and already garnered many positive reviews. “Chained in Silence is a pathbreaking addition to the growing body of historical research on black women and the U.S. justice system,” asserts Kali Gross, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. “Through painstaking, exhaustive research, [LaFlouria] maps black women as sentient beings (humans who had lives, loves, triumphs, and sorrows) and as prison laborers brutalized by the vicissitudes of convict leasing. Moreover, by historicizing the evolution of convict leasing and black women’s plight therein, LeFlouria ultimately provides a much-needed raced and gendered context for the agro-industrial penal complex operating in parts of the South today.”

In a talk titled “Living and Laboring off the Grid: Black Women Prisoners and the Making of the “Modern” South, 1865-1920,” in the New Directions in Black Feminist Studies leture series, which will take place on February 12, 2015, from 4 to 6 pm in Royce 306, LeFlouria will provide an in-depth examination of the lived and laboring experiences of imprisoned African-American women in the post-Civil War South, and describe how black female convict labor was used to help construct “New South” modernity. Using Georgia—the “industrial capital” of the region—as a case study, she will analyze how African-American women’s presence within the convict lease and chain gang systems of the “empire state” helped modernize the “New South,” by creating a new and dynamic set of occupational burdens and competencies for black women that were untested in the free labor market. In addition to discussing how the parameters of southern black women’s working lives were redrawn by the carceral state, she will also account for the hidden and explicit modes of resistance female prisoners used to counter work-related abuses, as well as physical and sexualized violence.

New Directions in Black Feminist Studies is a lecture series featuring three scholars who represent the best of contemporary Black feminist scholarship. This series will contribute to the renewed energy around African American studies at UCLA, with the recent departmentalization of African American Studies and Angela Davis’s recent residency in the Department of Gender Studies. It is curated by Grace Kyungwon Hong, organized by the Center for the Study of Women and cosponsored by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, Labor Studies Program, Institute for American Cultures, Department of English, Department of Gender Studies, Department of African American Studies, and International Institute. 


New Directions in Black Feminist Studies: Amber Jamilla Musser

Masochism is important not for its essence but because it exists as a set of relations among individuals and between individuals and structures. This mobility makes it a useful analytic tool; an understanding of what someone means by masochism lays bare concepts of race, gender, power, and subjectivity. Importantly, these issues converge on the question of what it feels like to be enmeshed in various regimes of power.   –Amber Jamilla Musser

Amber Jamilla Musser is an Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Musser obtained her Ph.D. in the History of Science from Harvard University.   Prior to that, she obtained a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from Oxford University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and History and Science from Harvard University.  Her work focuses on the intersection of race, sexuality, and affect. She teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level classes such as “Me, Myself, and I: Introduction to Identity Politics,” “People, Populations, and Places: Sexuality and the State,” and “Thinking Through the Body.”

One of her early articles, titled “Reading, Writing, and the Whip” (Literature and Medicine, Fall 2008, 204-222), she explores early psychological theories about masochism, and the relationship between some of these early theories and how masochism was written about in the literature at that time.  Specifically, Musser looks at the work of Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, an Austrian psychiatrist writing in the late nineteenth century and at how Krafft-Ebing drew upon the work of authors such as Sacher-Masoch and Rousseau.

In a recent article, titled “Objects of Desire: Toward an Ethics of Sameness” (Theory & Event 16:2 [2013]), Musser examines “objectum sexuality, an orientation in which people sexually orient themselves toward objects” and “ reflects on what constitutes sexuality, the nature of intimacy, and the agency of objects.” In this highly cogent and throughtful essay, she argues that “there is something more radical at stake in objectum sexuality. While recognizing objectum sexuality as a category of sexual orientation does provide us with the opportunity to think about intimacy as it has been refigured by neoliberalism, I argue that we view Erika's relationship to objects as a mode of desubjectification, more precisely, as a mode of becoming-object. This notion of becoming-object exploits the discourse of sameness, but inverts it. Instead of asking how are objects like subjects, the question becomes how are subjects like objects. This shift opens a window into what desubjectification can mean for questions of relationality and ethics in queer theory.” This insight leads Musser to the assertion that “This embrace of objects, of alterity, threatens to obliterate the subject/object divide and with that reframes anti-relationality as desirable and provides a way to imagine what an ethics of sameness might look like. This valorization of sameness also opens a productive conversation between theorists who advocate anti-relationality, those who work on new materialisms and those who focus on affect.60 The resonances between the dissolution of the self, an investment in animacy (and its attendant politics of non-hierarchy), and affective attachments provide the ground for this new ethics and illuminate objectum sexuality's potentiality in a spectrum of life beyond the neoliberal.”

Her new book, Sensational Flesh:  Race, Power, and Masochism (NYU Press, 2014), uses masochism as a lens to examine how power structures race, gender, and embodiment in different contexts.  It has been called “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” by Darieck Scott, Associate Professor of African American Studies and African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley and author of Extravagant Abjection.  “In everyday language, masochism is usually understood as the desire to abdicate control in exchange for sensation—pleasure, pain, or a combination thereof, “ says Scott. “Yet at its core, masochism is a site where power, bodies, and society come together. Sensational Flesh uses masochism as a lens to examine power structures race, gender, and embodiment in different contexts…. Engaging with a range of debates about lesbian S&M, racialization, femininity, and disability, as well as key texts such as Sacher-Masoch’s Venus 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.”

Jean Walton, Associate Professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Film Studies at the University of Rhode Island and author of Fair Sex, Savage Dreams: Race Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference, also lauds the book, noting that“Sensational Flesh explores the material aspects of power—how, in a Foucauldian sense, it is ‘felt’ in the body—unpacking the bodily, sensational dimensions of subjectivity. Comprehensive and exhaustive in scope, Musser leaves no stone unturned in her consideration of ‘masochism’ in all its different formulations, and in the often-contradictory ways it has been deployed.” 

Musser recently gave a talk, “Riddles of the Sphinx: Kara Walker and the Possibility of Black Female Masochism,” in CSW's New Directions in Black Feminist Studies lecture series  January 29, 2015, from 4 to 6 pm in Royce 306. In it, she will consider how we can understand black female masochism--the willful and desired submission to another. Masochism is a difficult subject to broach, but black female masochism is even more so because it threatens to produce subjects who embrace myriad systems of historical and cultural forms of objectification. Further, black female masochism is difficult to theorize because masochism as a concept requires an understanding of agency, which has been elusive for black women to claim. Through a reading of some of Kara Walker's work, this talk looks at how we have traditionally understood black female sexuality and female sexual passivity to think about the ways that discourses of race and sexuality converge and diverge.

New Directions in Black Feminist Studies is a lecture series featuring three scholars who represent the best of contemporary Black feminist scholarship. This series will contribute to the renewed energy around African American studies at UCLA, with the recent departmentalization of African American Studies and Angela Davis’s recent residency in the Department of Gender Studies. It is curated by Grace Kyungwon Hong, organized by the Center for the Study of Women and cosponsored by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, Labor Studies Program, Institute for American Cultures, Department of English, Department of Gender Studies, Department of African American Studies, and International Institute.

Musser's talk is available on the CSW YouTube channel: