What We Are Reading This Week | A Feminist Guide to Living and Thinking Sensuously
March 25, 2020
In the final week of women’s history month, we are celebrating a writer whose work has inspired us for years.
Minna Salami’s debut Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone offers an Africa-centered, woman-centered, and black feminist approach to everything from power to beauty to womanhood to liberation. The book is fresh off the press—out in the UK last week (in the US, in a few days).
The book helps us understand what is feminist and vital about African philosophies of power and embodiment. It excavates African cosmologies, history, and art for ideas on rethinking the body, beauty, power, womanhood, and more.
Minna Salami is a Nigerian-Finish writer who in the past few years has become a global voice for feminism. Some of you may know her as @MsAfrpolitan, her Instagram handle and the name of her influential feminist blog. With this book, she’s taken everything we love about her writing and her online presence and made it into a powerful study on how to enrich life by working with black and feminist knowledge systems.
The book is based on something Salami calls “sensuous knowledge.” One thing to know going into the book is that the “sensuous” in sensuous knowledge doesn’t really mean sensual.
To be clear, Salami has no issues whatsoever with sensuality. In fact, the book contains insightful arguments for the erotic. At some point, she calls the vagina a “poetic organ,” so you get the picture.
That said, sensuous knowledge is something different. It is the idea that knowledge is embodied. Knowledge is not this airy, immaterial thing that we capture in calculations, binaries, and immutable laws. Knowledge is mind, but it is also body. Knowledge lies in the full use of all our senses.
Knowing sensuously, thus, helps you think inclusively. It opens you up to the power in blending the “imaginative and rational, the quantifiable and the immeasurable, the intellectual and the emotional” as opposed to living in that cold, hard, often non-humane space of reason and calculations. That is why thinking sensuously is fundamentally feminist. It undermines the rigid binaries of abstract thinking that force women and men to reproduce oppressive relationships of power.
Sensuous Knowledge offers avenues for escaping the male/female, mind/body, black/white, God/Man, Right/wrong, culture/nature dualities that continues to simplify our world in ways that are particularly damaging to black women.
One of many things we love about the book is the fact that it is addressed to everybody. Like Bell Hooks in Feminism is for Everybody, which Salami engages with, and Chimamanda Adichie in We Should All Be Feminists, Salami has a universal gospel to spread.
Feminism is not a niche politics. An ideal based on the safety, empowerment, and wellbeing of women cannot be reduced to partisan sentiments. It is the stuff of life. It is the air we breath.
So even though Salami is asking deep philosophical questions, her allegiance is not to philosophers but to any thinking person with a mind to engage with feminist ideas in a uniquely empowering way.
Another really cool thing about reading this book is that it truly feels like listening in on conversations among your black feminist faves. Salami conjures so many powerful voices —Audre Lorde, Toni Morisson, Bell Hooks, Beyonce, Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker, Chimamanda Adichie, Sophie Bosede Oluwole, Angela Davis, Lauryn Hill, Adelaide Casely-Hayford, and many more.
Click here to start reading with us!