The Body

The definition of the body is not limited to a single entity, but has thousands of components to create a whole body. How someone describes their personal body can be different from another. 

According to Professor Robb’s unit the body can be seen as both objective and constructed facts. The constructed fact that we exist can vary based on the persons’ own experiences versus objective facts about the body vary what the world says. Additionally, if one thinks a body consists of having gential that is incorrect because some people are born without these organs, and still consider their body a body. Depending on what each person constructs about the body affects the way the body is said to be a body and what it represents.

In Professor Fache’s unit the body is seen solely as an object for entertainment purposes. Such as Josephine Baker, as she used her body to bring everyone together to ignore and destroy racism through entertainment. She allowed mass people of all races to join together. Her body created equality in the audience with no segregated sections of people. From living and performing in Europe she knew that her body could bring people together thus why she went to the US to do the same. In the source Fanon, Franz. “The Fact of Blackness” Josephine breaks the normal black standards by dancing and acting with white men. She also stopped segregation allowing both blacks and whites to watch her perform in the same venue. The reference of basic color prejudice is seen as Josephine is of lighter skin tone, maybe allowing her to pass as white. This shows that if she was of a darker complexion her career could have been impacted differently. The reference of the solitude of a black woman shows how she started from nothing and rose to the top by herself. Josephine embraces herself in the white mans’ world to perform and try to no longer be enslaved by the white man. Additionally she is no longer enslaved by the white man, but used for performance tasks and humor. 

Another example for the definition of a body is seen in Displaying Sara Baartman,“Aint i a woman?, and From Human Zoos to Colonial Apotheose. Sara was treated as an object or means to get ahead for scientific purposes. The historical account of her life lacks many pieces and solely focuses on the profits whites were able to obtain from her. When she was alive she was forced to perform in these shows for others’ enjoyment. She wore very minimal clothing and beads from Africa to appease her rareness to the audience. While in reality the animal tamer controlled her like an animal, taking away her human dignity. She was not treated as a human and was degraded in the performances. After she died scientists portrayed her body as a work of art, denying her basic rights to human dignity. 

In conjunction Professor Fache’s unit also focuses on Beyonce showing how her body is used in different manner, showing progression to modern times. A black woman has changed from simply being a housewife to becoming her own. In the documentary Lemonade, each chapter progresses with a different song from the Beyonce album. The songs and message of each chapter illuminate the changing aspects of bodies. The bodies begin in the historical context of racism while advancing through exploration to become resurrected and new. The elevation of black bodies is shown promptly throughout the film striving to become a better body then once before.

Throughout Professor Green’s unit I can see the body as a way to describe and tell a story. For example in the film, Twilight: Los Angeles by Anna Deveare Smith, I can see how the use of her single body is able to expand across an entire community and nation. Her body enables new characters shifting from one perspective to another. Through the single lens of her black body she represents other races and genders. She does not simply change her voice and clothes, but the mannerisms she uses to create the characters. She understands that each body goes beyond the color of one’s skin. This open mindedness throughout her performance enhances and expands on the point that one body does not embody the same characteristics. 

In Professor Tamura’s unit I can see the body as a result of violence against other bodies. In the excerpt by Philip Gourevitch. from “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families : Stories from Rwanda. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998. Excerpt 1, pages 1-43”, I can see that the body is an archive. The body is capable of holding past trauma, but also able to grow from experiences. A single or multitudes of bodies can be destroyed in a single instance. For example, in the expert the Hutus and Tutsi are killed in the Rwandan genoide and we can see how the dead bodies are described through the author. However, the author also uses his own body to explore and seek empathy on the dead. Therefore, in this sense the use of bodies plays into social issues and compassion for those both alive and dead. 

Throughout every unit this semester I can see the body is not a single entity or way to be explained, but a multitude of explanations and reasonings. To me I think the body is specifically how each person sees it. A body can mean something different for each person with no consistent similarities. I think the expression of a body does not have to be contained with a single thought. The way one describes a body in context, is that definition and thus the appropriate one for them. 

Sources

Fanon, Franz.“The Fact of Blackness,” in Black Skin White Masks. New ed. London: Pluto Press. 2008. pp.82-108. (ebook)

Sojourner Truth. “Ain’t I a woman?” June 21, 1851. 

• Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel, and Sandrine Lemaire. “From Human Zoos to Colonial Apotheoses: the Era of Exhibiting the Other,Africultures (30 November 2001).

Philip Gourevitch. from We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families : Stories from Rwanda. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998. Excerpt 1, pages 1-43.

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