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1648 - Between Grotesque and Gorgeous: Postcolonial Representations of the Black Body in the Americas

16.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30

Convener 1: Davis- Sulikowski, Ulrike (Universität Wien , 1010, Austria / Österreich)
Convener 2: Khittel, Stefan (Institut für Internationale Entwicklung)

The Black body in the Americas has been repressed, instrumentalized, and represented in innumerable ways since Africans have forcibly been brought to the shores of the Americas . Black bodies have been abhorred, marvelled, demonized, exoticized, and admired. The 19th century was marked by the independence of Haiti and the abolition of slavery, the 20th century lead to civil rights for African Americans, decolonization of most English colonies in the Caribbean, Black resistance movements and an ever increasing visibility of Black people in public spaces throughout the Americas . The 21st century has seen the first Black President of the United States . Despite obvious political progress during the postcolonial period, the representations of the Black body draw on ancient prejudices, colonial images, and contemporary fears. The gangster, the junkie, the prostitute are but a small sample. Nevertheless, ever more often positive associations are also represented: the athlete, the beauty queen, or – the president.

Postcolonial approaches have engaged with yet other interpretations of the body – based on Bakhtin and Fanon the body has become a prominent focus of debates on resistance and representation. The pivotal function of 'the gaze', intrinsically linked to the infamous double of repulsion and desire, has received particular attention in contemporary research on the body as in the works of Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, bell hooks, Achille Mbembe and many others in their discourse on hegemonic strategies and counter-hegemonic struggles.

In this panel we want to engage in a lively, interdisciplinary debate on historic and contemporary forms of representations of the Black body, be they based on empirical ethnographic and archival research, or cinematographic, musicological or in general visual analysis. We also welcome theoretical contributions to this topic.

Keywords: African-Americans, body, post-colonialism, representation

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