Extravagant Abjection

Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination

327 pages

July, 2010

ISBN: 9780814740958



Also available in


African American Studies

Part of the Sexual Cultures series


Darieck Scott is Assistant Professor of African American studies at the University of California-Berkeley. He is the author of the novels Hex and Traitor to the Race, and the editor of Best Black Gay Erotica.

All books by Darieck Scott

2012 Winner of the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award presented by the Modern Language Association

Challenging the conception of empowerment associated with the Black Power Movement and its political and intellectual legacies in the present, Darieck Scott contends that power can be found not only in martial resistance, but, surprisingly, where the black body has been inflicted with harm or humiliation.

Theorizing the relation between blackness and abjection by foregrounding often neglected depictions of the sexual exploitation and humiliation of men in works by James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, and Samuel R. Delany, Extravagant Abjection asks: If we’re racialized through domination and abjection, what is the political, personal, and psychological potential in racialization-through-abjection? Using the figure of male rape as a lens through which to examine this question, Scott argues that blackness in relation to abjection endows its inheritors with a form of counter-intuitive power—indeed, what can be thought of as a revised notion of black power. This power is found at the point at which ego, identity, body, race, and nation seem to reveal themselves as utterly penetrated and compromised, without defensible boundary. Yet in Extravagant Abjection, “power” assumes an unexpected and paradoxical form.

In arguing that blackness endows its inheritors with a surprising form of counter–intuitive power—as a resource for the political present—found at the very point of violation, Extravagant Abjection enriches our understanding of the construction of black male identity.


  • “According to Darieck Scott, the awful legacies of racial difference and debasement are not inevitable. And so in Extravagant Abjection, he deftly paves the way for new understandings of the history and culture of black power and violence. His work is theoretically exciting and sophisticated, offering invaluable lessons: that the violent pressure of black history—the pressure of its terrible subordination—can be relieved, often in unexpected ways. Scott helps us see, even in the most humiliating and violent of scenes, an entire horizon of other, sometimes pleasurable, possibilities of resistance.”

    —Michael Cobb, author of God Hates Fags

  • “A powerful theoretical statement in the emerging field of black queer studies, Extravagant Abjection makes the bold claim that it is necessary to work through and not simply to ‘white wash’ the political, social, ideological, and psychological consequences of what Darieck Scott names ‘black abjection.’ Building upon the insights of the more articulate practitioners of bondage and submission, Sadism and Masochism, Scott’s readings of key texts in twentieth century Black American literature are at once sophisticated, provocative, creative, and indeed titillating. This book will surely become a ‘dark’ classic.”

    —Robert Reid-Pharr, author of Once You Go Black

  • "[Scott] arrives at the provocative notion that it is the black body's status as brought into being by and through past trauma that makes it best positioned to tap the inherent powers of abjection."

    American Literature

  •  “Extravagant Abjection’s suturing of bottoming and volitional powerlessness, a mere and indeterminate power, reframes a sexual politics that only recognizes a notion of freedom approaching an infinity curve—the liberatory horizon that queer theory as too often yearned for.”

    GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies