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This chapter conceptualizes and advances the Black ecstatic as a hermeneutic for analyzing post–civil rights black queer expressive culture. As an affective and aesthetic practice, the Black ecstatic eschews both the heroism of black pasts and the promise of liberated black futures in order to proffer new relational and representational modes in the ongoing catastrophe that constitutes black life in modernity. Against the backdrop of civil rights retrenchment, the war on drugs, the AIDS crisis and the emergent US carceral state, this chapter analyzes the recent film Moonlight and the poetry of black gay writer and AIDS activist Essex Hemphill. In so doing, it shows how, across literary genres and media platforms, the Black ecstatic instantiates formal innovations to black queer expressive forms and encourages willful exuberance as an affective disposition and relational ethic that enables black life and liberation in the catastrophic present.

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