Sensual Excess

Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance

240 pages

11 black and white illustrations

November, 2018

ISBN: 9781479830954



Add to Cart Available: 10/12/2018

Also available in


American Studies

Part of the Sexual Cultures series


Amber Jamilla Musser is Associate Professor of American Studies at George Washington University and the author of Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism, also published by New York University Press.

All books by Amber Jamilla Musser

Reimagines black and brown sensuality to develop new modes of knowledge production
In Sensual Excess, Amber Jamilla Musser imagines epistemologies of sensuality that emerge from fleshiness. To do so, she works against the framing of black and brown bodies as sexualized, objectified, and abject, and offers multiple ways of thinking with and through sensation and aesthetics. Each chapter draws our attention to particular aspects of pornotropic capture that black and brown bodies must always negotiate. Though these technologies differ according to the nature of their encounters with white supremacy, together they add to our understanding of the ways that structures of domination produce violence and work to contain bodies and pleasures within certain legible parameters.
To do so, Sensual Excess analyzes moments of brown jouissance that exceed these constraints. These ruptures illuminate multiple epistemologies of selfhood and sensuality that offer frameworks for minoritarian knowledge production which is designed to enable one to sit with uncertainty. Through examinations of installations and performances like Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, Patty Chang’s In Love and Nao Bustamante’s Neapolitan, Musser unpacks the relationships between racialized sexuality and consumption to interrogate foundational concepts in psychoanalytic theory, critical race studies, feminism, and queer theory. In so doing, Sensual Excess offers a project of knowledge production focused not on mastery, but on sensing and imagining otherwise, whatever and wherever that might be.  


  • “In a feat of sheer poeticism, Sensual Excess offers readers a lucid consideration of various representational strategies employed by artists of color in order to rewrite the scripts positioned on their bodies. Musser’s attunement to the senses—especially taste, touch, and smell—lend a particularly textured quality to the book, and aids in her brilliant construction of an expansive and juicy framework for pondering the rich versions of the self, and the other, as staged in brown feminine performance.”

    —Uri McMillan, author of Embodied Avatars: Geneaologies of Black Feminist Art and Performance

  • “This book is a model for how to read, engage, think with, and celebrate black, brown, feminist, queer, and sex-centered art practices. Sensual Excess is a sustained argument for and celebration of the sensual politics of work by artists like Xandra Ibarra, Mickalene Thomas, Nao Bustamante, and Lyle Ashton Harris. Musser’s writing centers on the performative space of the encounter with art objects and practices—black and brown life unfolds not only in these artworks but around and through them. Musser’s writing is distinguished by a devotion to the material detail of these works, to their vitality, to their philosophical intensities, to their ecstatic and transformative potential.”

    —Jennifer Doyle, author of Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art