Awards season continues with one of our already-lauded books receiving another prize. L. H. Stallings‘s Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures has won the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award, awarded by the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association (MLA). The award goes to the best book in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer studies in literature and cultural studies.
Stallings uses funk in all its iterations to provide us with an innovation in black studies. To her, funk is a multisensory and multidimensional philosophy used in conjunction with the erotic, eroticism, and black erotica. It is the affect that shapes film, performance, sound, food, technology, drugs, energy, time, and the seeds of revolutionary ideas for black movements. But funk is also an experience to feel, to hear, to touch and taste.
Stallings uses funk to highlight the importance of the erotic and eroticism in Black cultural and political movements, debunking “the truth of sex” and its histories. Brandishing funk as a theoretical tool, Stallings argues that Western theories of the erotic fail as universally applicable terms or philosophies, and thus lack utility in discussions of black bodies, subjects, and culture. In considering the Victorian concept of freak in black funk, Stallings proposes that black artists across all media have fashioned a tradition that embraces the superfreak, sexual guerrilla, sexual magic, mama’s porn, black trans narratives, and sex work in a post-human subject position. Their goal: to ensure survival and evolution in a world that exploits black bodies in capitalist endeavors, imperialism, and colonization.