Mireille Miller-Young is associate professor of Feminist Studies and an Affiliate Faculty member in Film and Media Studies, Black Studies, History, and Comparative Literature at University of California, Santa Barbara. She was the Advancing Equity Through Research Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University in 2019-2020. Miller-Young’s widely acclaimed book, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography (2014) was awarded the Sara A. Whaley Prize for Best Book on Women and Labor by the National Women’s Studies Association and the John Hope Franklin Prize for Best Book by the American Studies Association. Miller-Young’s research has been published in Ethnopornography, Porn Archives, Queer Sex Work, GLQ, Sexualities, and Meridians. She has contributed essays to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, Coming Out Like a Porn Star, and $pread, a sex worker magazine, and she has shared her expertise in interviews with NPR, PRI, and a variety of podcasts.
With Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, and Tristan Taormino, she is an editor of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure (2013), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Anthology and has been translated into German (2014) and Spanish (2016). Having been the co-convener of the Black Sexual Economies Research Collective at Washington University School of Law, she is lead editor of Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital (2019). Working at the intersection of history, feminist and queer theory, media studies, labour studies, and archives, Miller-Young is currently developing three projects during the ICI Visiting Fellowship: Ho Theory: Hustling, Hypersexuality, and the Erotics of Race; The Black Erotic Archive; and The Sex Worker Oral History Project.
Ho Theory: Hustling, Hypersexuality, and the Erotics of Race
ICI Visiting Project 2020-21
Engaging feminist humanistic methodologies in visual textual analysis, oral history, ethnography, and archival research, this project analyses the representation, performance, desire, and labour of U.S. and African Diasporic Black women engaging in forms of hustling, hypersexuality, and sex work. Centring the question of how Black women interrogate and rework damaging archetypes like the ‘Ho’ (colloquial abbreviation of whore), this project theorizes from below, focusing on multiply marginalized Black cis women and transwomen involved in stigmatized and criminalized forms of erotic engagement, relation, and survival.
Ho Theory seeks to understand not only how Black sex workers and others put hypersexuality to work, but also how they fashion theoretical interventions in race, gender, and sex. Interrogating film, photography, visual and performance art, social media and music video, along with ethnographic interviews and oral histories, this project assembles a unique archive of erotic politics.
Essential in rethinking the role of the politics of respectability in the punishment regimes of anti-trafficking and criminalization of sex work, these actors force an accounting of the erotic sovereignty of the most precarious. Ultimately, hypersexuality offers a critical lens to examine Black eroticism and the erotics of Blackness. Amid the contemporary logics of carcerality, white supremacy, and antiblackness in a global frame, what might we learn about the strategies, mobilities, desires, and freedom dreams—and the critical Black queer-feminist work—of the so-called ‘Hoes’ as they attempt to explode and rework the very terms that define them?