Sociology Race and Sexuality
Ghassan Moussawi, Vrushali Patil
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0247


Pioneering work on the relationship between race and sexuality can be dated from the late 1970s. Early academic, political, and artistic work by women of color in particular gave voice to women’s simultaneous experiences of heterosexism, racism, sexism, and so on. Queer of color work broadly theorized the role of race and racism in knowledge, politics, and concepts of sexualities. Historical work on empire, slavery, and colonialism further demonstrated this fact, while contemporarily focused transnational work does the same for early-21st-century processes. Given the importance of intersectional and transnational analysis, research on race and sexuality has become a growing and central feature of sexuality studies. Such research does not treat “whiteness” as a taken-for-granted category of analysis, but instead unpacks how sex, sexuality, and race are always co-constituted. With emerging theoretical lenses such as Queer of Color Critique, the study of racialized sexualities has become crucial to any exploration of sexuality. In addition, studies of race and sexuality look at how they have historically informed and continue to inform one another, in ways that include thinking about empire, Racisms, carcerality, surveillance, criminology, deviance, desire, and changing understanding of the erotic. Both intersectional and transnational work consider multiple racial formations and take into account the multiple genealogies of sexuality studies, centralizing work that is informed by women of color feminisms, transnational feminisms, queer theory, and black feminist thought. To best understand racial and sexual formations, race and sexuality studies allow us to think of the two as always informing one another. Thus it shifts our attention from primarily thinking about stable identity categories and culture to centralizing people’s relations to power.

Anthologies, Edited Volumes, and Introductory Texts

There are a number of anthologies and edited volumes that attend to the centrality of race for sexuality studies. Most are interdisciplinary, combining sociology, queer theory, performance studies, anthropology, and political science. The majority of the edited volumes are US-based studies of race and sexuality. While Asencio 2010 focuses primarily on Latinx communities, Grzanka 2019 includes primary sources, historical and contemporary interdisciplinary texts on intersectionality. Johnson and Henderson 2005, a groundbreaking volume, introduces black queer studies and is followed by Johnson 2016, which showcases more recent work and developments in the field. Finally, Vidal-Ortiz, et al. 2018 outlines the field of race and sexuality, drawing on interdisciplinary texts debates, as well as transnational contexts.

  • Asencio, Marysol, ed. 2010. Latina/o sexualities: Probing powers, practices, and policies. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

    Edited volume highlighting predominantly social scientific work on Latina/o sexualities, and exploring issues including trans Latinx communities, sex work, sexual health and HIV, and representations of Latinx sexualities. This volume showcases the complexities and contradictions of Latinx sexualities and speaks back to the misrepresentation of Latinx sexual lives.

  • Grzanka, Patrick, ed. 2019. Intersectionality: Foundations and frontiers. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

    Second edition to the volume first published in 2014 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press). Uses primary sources and classical texts by central figures of intersectionality studies. An interdisciplinary volume that charts the history and the future of intersectionality and how race, sex, gender, and class are central to conceptualizing sexuality.

  • Johnson, E. Patrick, ed. 2016. No tea, no shade: New writings in queer black studies. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

    Following up on Black Queer Studies, this edited volume builds on and extends the earlier calls from the original anthology. It includes newer voices and topics including trans issues, carcerality, and gentrification, and illustrates the continued significance of black queer studies and the centrality of race to queer and sexual formations.

  • Johnson, E. Patrick, and Mae G. Henderson, eds. 2005. Black queer studies: A critical anthology. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

    Groundbreaking edited volume which advances interdisciplinary black queer studies, highlighting the centrality of race and racialization to our understanding of gender, sexuality, and queer studies. The essays cover topics including knowledge production, invisibility of whiteness to queer studies, intersectionality, and teaching pedagogies.

  • Vidal-Ortiz, Salvador, Brandon Andrew Robinson, and Cristina Khan. 2018. Race and sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

    Interdisciplinary book that highlights the importance of race to the study of sexuality, using cases from the Global North and South. Text can be used to introduce students to studying racialized sexualities, and also appeals to nonacademic audiences, including activists.

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