Theorist of Sensation, Racialization, and Excess​

Amber Jamilla Musser is a writer and thinker who has published widely on black feminisms, queer of color critique, psychoanalysis, embodiment and sensation, and aesthetics. 

Her research has been supported by grants from the Ruth Landes Memorial Fellowship and the Arts Writers’ Grant from the Warhol Foundation. She has also held fellowships at New York University’s Draper Program in Gender Studies and Brown University’s Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women.

She is currently a Professor of English at The Graduate Center/ CUNY. She previously taught Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and American Studies at George Washington University.

She is a member of the Social Text Collective and President of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (2022-2023). Her new book Between Shadows and Noise: Sensation, Situatedness, and the Undisciplined is forthcoming in 2024 from Duke University Press

To hear her discuss her research with Cathy Hannabach on the Ideas on Fire podcast

WUNC interview with Embodied Radio Show on BDSM



Between Shadows and Noise: Sensation, Situatedness, and the Undisciplined

In Between Shadows and Noise Amber Jamilla Musser theorizes sensation as a Black feminist method for aesthetic interpretation and criticism that uses the knowledges held by the body to access the unrepresentable. Thinking through blackness, empire, and colonialism, Musser examines art works ranging from Ming Smith’s Flamingo Fandago, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Katherine Dunham’s Shango to Samita Sinha’s This Ember State, Titus Kaphar’s A Pillow for Fragile Fictions, and Teresita Fernandez’s Puerto Rico Burned #6. She engages with these works from an embodied situatedness to grapple with the questions and sensations of racialization and difference that these works produce. Throughout, Musser rethinks how we consider the relationship between race, representation, and politics by dwelling in those spaces and concepts that elude Western norms of representation, objectivity, and logic. In so doing, she explores ways of being and knowing that exceed overdetermined parameters while offering a blueprint for sensing, imagining, and living otherwise.

Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance

Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance (NYU Press, 2018) turns toward sensation and aesthetics in order to imagine epistemologies of sensuality that emerge from fleshiness. Using analyses of particular works of art, each chapter draws attention to specific aspects of pornotropic capture that black and brown people must negotiate while also identifying moments of brown jouissance that exceed these constraints. In addition to containing critiques of normativity and proffering epistemologies of sensuality against those of sexuality, the book argues for sensation and aesthetics as minoritarian forms of knowledge.

Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism

Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism (NYU Press, 2014) uses masochism as a lens to theorize different felt relationships to power. The book beings together debates on masochism within feminism, discussions of masochism from psychoanalysis and critiques of colonialism, literary presentations of masochism, and performance and visual art that draws on masochism’s repertoire in order to make an argument about the relationship between sensation and knowledge production and the racialization of our current episteme of sexuality.

Get in touch!

For further information or inquiries, please fill out this form