Janell Hobson is Associate Professor of Womens Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She is the author of Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture.
In 1810, Sara Baartman was taken from South Africa to Europe, where she was put on display at circuses, salons, museums, and universities as the "Hottentot Venus." The subsequent legacy of representations of black women’s sexuality—from Josephine Baker to Serena Williams to hip-hop and dancehall videos—refer back to her iconic image. Via a new preface, Hobson argues for the continuing influence of Baartman’s legacy, as her image still reverberates through the contemporary marketization of black women’s bodies, from popular music and pornography to advertising. A brand new chapter explores how historical echoes from previous eras map onto highly visible bodies in the twenty-first century. It analyzes fetishistic spectacles of the black "booty," with particular emphasis on the role of Beyoncé Knowles in the popularization of the "bootylicious" body, and the counter-aesthetic the singer has gone on to advance for black women’s bodies and beauty politics.
By studying the imagery of the "Hottentot Venus," from the nineteenth century to now, readers are invited to confront the racial and sexual objectification and embodied resistance that make up a significant part of black women’s experience.