Examines the disjunction between women's appearance and reality.
In recent years, questions concerning "the body" and its place in postmodern discourses have taken center stage in academic disciplines. Body Politics joins these discussions by focusing on the challenges women face when their externally defined identities and representations as bodies -- their body fictions -- speak louder than what they know to be their true selves.
Racialized, gendered, or homophobic body fictions disfigure individuals by placing them beneath a veil of invisibility and by political, emotional, or spiritual suffocation. As objects of interpretation, "female bodies" in search of health care, legal assistance, professional respect, identity confirmation, and financial security must first confront their fictionalized doubles in a collision that, in many cases, ends in disappointment, distress, and even suicide.
The contributors reflect on women's day-to-day lives and the cultural productions (literature, MTV, film, etc.) that give body fictions their power and influence. By exploring how these fictions are manipulated politically, expressively, and communally, they offer reinterpretations that challenge the fictional double while theorizing the discursive and performative forms it takes.
Contributors include Trudier Harris, Maude Hines, S. Yumiko Hulvey, Debra Walker King, Sue V. Rosser, Stephanie A. Smith, Maureen Turim, Caroline Vercoe, Gloria Wade-Gayles, and Rosemary Weatherston.
Debra Walker King, Associate Professor of English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, is author of Deep Talk: Reading African American Literary Names. She has published articles and reviews in Names: the Journal of the American Name Society; Philosophy and Rhetoric; and African American Review.
Introduction: Body Fictions, Debra Walker King
Who Says an Older Woman Can't/Shouldn't Dance?, Gloria Wade-Gayles
When Body Politics of Partial Identifications Collide with Multiple Identities of Real Academics: Limited Understandings of Research and Truncated Collegial Interactions, Sue V. Rosser
Body Language: Corporeal Semiotics, Literary Resistance, Maude Hines
Writing in Red Ink, Debra Walker King
Myths and Monsters: The Female Body as the Site for Political Agendas, S. Yumiko Hulvey
Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco, Caroline Vercoe
Performing Bodies, Performing Culture: An interview with Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamante, Rosemary Weatherston
Women Singing, Women Gesturing: The Gendered and Racially-Coded Body of Music Video, Maureen Turim
Bombshell, Stephanie A. Smith
Afterword: The Unbroken Circle of Assumptions, Trudier Harris
As an essential element defining black experience in America, pain plays many roles. It is used to promote racial stereotypes, increase the sale of movies and other pop culture products, and encourage advocacy for various social causes. Pain is employed as a tool of resistance against racism, but it also functions as a sign of racism's insidious ability to exert power over and maintain control of those it claims--regardless of race. With these dichotomous uses of pain in mind, King considers and questions the effects of the manipulation of an unspoken but long-standing belief that pain, suffering, and the hope for freedom and communal subsistence will merge to uplift those who are oppressed, especially during periods of social and political upheaval. This belief has become a ritualized philosophy fueling the multiple constructions of black bodies in pain, a belief that has even come to function as an identity and community stabilizer.
In her attempt to interpret the constant manipulation and abuse of this philosophy, King explores the redemptive and visionary power of pain as perceived historically in black culture, the aesthetic value of black pain as presented in a variety of cultural artifacts, and the socioeconomic politics of suffering surrounding the experiences and representations of blacks in the United States. The book introduces the term Blackpain, defining it as a tool of national mythmaking and as a source of cultural and symbolic capital that normalizes individual suffering until the individual--the real person--disappears. Ultimately, the book investigates America's love-hate relationship with black bodies in pain.