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Guest Lecturer to Explore Notion of Brown 'Jouissance'

St. Lawrence University’s Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies and the Chaplain’s Office will host guest speaker Amber Jamilla Musser, the recipient of the Beyer Resident in Queer Studies, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 20, in Carnegie Hall, room 010. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Musser is an assistant professor of women and gender Studies at Washington University and author of Sensational Flesh: Race, Power and Masochism (NYU Press). Her lecture, titled “Carrie Mae Weems and the Question of Brown Jouissance,” will explore the ambivalence of emotion that is provoked by Weems’ 1995-1996 installation “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried.”

Weems’ installation was comprised of 34 photographic images from the 19th and 20th centuries and provided an opportunity to meditate on the discourses of “woundedness” that permeate thinking on race, affect and masochism, while also theorizing brown jouissance. The term of jouissance was used by French social scientist Jacques Lacan to indicate going beyond pleasure. Following Lacan, Musser takes jouissance to be the experience of being a body, what Argentine-Mexican physician, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Nestor Braunstein describes as “positivity, ... ‘something’ lived by a body when pleasure stops being pleasure. It is a plus, a sensation that is beyond pleasure.” 

According to Musser, Brown jouissance offers insights into thinking about this opacity as strategic, masochistic and deeply connected to the flesh. Further, brown jouissance is not just adding race to Lacan’s concept, as Musser argues in her reading of Weems’ installation, it enables a re-thinking of the relationship between psychoanalysis, femininity, and race.  

The Beyer Residency is sponsored by a generous gift from Rick Beyer ’66, the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Chaplain’s Office. For more information, contact 315-229-5130 or 315-229-5965.