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Unmaking Race, Remaking Soul

Transformative Aesthetics and the Practice of Freedom

Christa Davis Acampora, Angela L. Cotten

Publication Year: 2007

Unmaking Race, Remaking Soul explores innovative approaches to analyzing cultural productions through which women of color have challenged and undermined social and political forces that work to oppress them. Emphasizing art-making practices that emerge out of and reflect concrete lived experience, leading contributors to the fields of contemporary psychoanalytic literary analysis, Latin American studies, feminist theory, Native Women’s studies, Africana studies, philosophy, and art history examine the relationship between the aesthetic and the political. The focus of the book is on the idea of aesthetic agency through which one develops different modes of expression and creative practices that facilitate personal and social transformation. Aesthetic agency is liberating in a broad sense—it not only frees our creative capacities but also expands our capacity for joy and our abilities to know, to judge, and to act. Artists considered include Nadema Agard, Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, Daystar/Rosalie Jones, Coco Fusco, Diane Glancy, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Toni Morrison, MeShell Ndegéocello, Marcie Rendon, Ntozake Shange, Lorna Simpson, Roxanne Swentzell, Regina Vater, Kay Walking Stick, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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Unmaking Race,Remaking Soul

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No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY...


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pp. ix-x

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Foreword: “Tragedy Fatigue” and “Aesthetic Agency”

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pp. xi-xiv

Last spring, preparing to leave for a University of California conference on “black thought in the age of terror,” I tuned into the local public radio station and heard a BBC report on “tragedy fatigue” in Australia. The reporters narrated, among news of varied atrocities on aboriginal lands committed by aboriginal men, the stitching together of an infant follow- ...

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pp. xv-xvi

We wish to thank Jane Bunker and her assistants for guidance of this project from its first draft to its last. Two anonymous reviewers made many helpful suggestions that improved the organization of the volume generally and specific contributions particularly. The SUNY Women’s Studies program and its co-sponsors generously supported a symposium in 2003 ...

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On Unmaking and Remaking: An Introduction (with obvious affection for Gloria Anzald

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pp. 1-18

Our title for this volume makes obvious reference to Gloria Anzaldúa’s magnificently rich collection of writings by feminists of color titled Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras (1990). Her recent death is a loss for all of us, and her passing warrants memorializing. In addition to her two coedited collections, including This Bridge Called My Back: Writings ...

Part I. Resisting Imagination

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1. Writing the Xicanista: Ana Castillo and the Articulation of Chicana Feminist Aesthetics

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pp. 21-46

Of all the writers to whom Ana Castillo is compared, perhaps the most frequent are Colombian Gabriel García Márquez and Chilean Isabel Allende, arguably the two best-known proponents, or practitioners, of “magical realism.” García Márquez’s Cien años de la soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), which was originally published in 1967 and has ...

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2. Everyday Revolutions, Shifting Power, and Feminine Genius in Julia Alvarez’s Fiction

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pp. 47-58

Julia Alvarez uses the conventions of domestic femininity, womanhood, and motherhood to resist patriarchal authority both at the level of private family life and in public institutions, including government. These uses simultaneously demonstrate that resistance to domination involves shifting power dynamics and strikingly underscore sexual...

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3. Authorizing Desire: Erotic Poetics and the Alsthesis of Freedom in Morrison and Shange

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pp. 59-78

Oppression has at least two existential characteristics: (1) it aims to reduce the oppressed to the status of an object, and (2) it excludes the oppressed from the community of those regarded as having the capacity and the authority to make meanings and establish values. In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir specifically identifies manipulation of desire as ...

Part II. Body Agonistes

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4. MeShell Ndeg

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pp. 81-102

What does it mean to “believe in things we cannot see”? How is wetness audible? In western cultures, sight and vision dominate conceptualizations of knowledge, power, aesthetics, and sexuality. The epistemological power of music (sounding and listening) is often marginalized, cast in the shadow of visual and literary culture. In American popular music, ...

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5. Portraits of the Past, Imagined Now: Reading the Work of Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson

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pp. 103-140

Carrie Mae Weems’ Mirror, Mirror (1987–88, figure 5.1), from her Ain’t Jokin’ series, is a photograph of a black woman holding up a mirror that does not reflect her image. Her face is turned away, and her eyes are cast downward. Her expression suggests a melancholy shadowed by exhausted disgust. In the place of her reflection, we see the image she responds to: a ...

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6. The Coloniality of Embodiment: Coco Fusco’s Postcolonial Genealogies and Semiotic Agonistics

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pp. 141-158

The work of Coco Fusco eerily epitomizes the situation of post ethnic racial subjects in a post–civil rights, post–cold war, and what Fusco herself has termed the “pan-American postnationalism” era (1995, 21–24). Loathe as we may be to admit it, there are times when it becomes inevitable to think of an artist’s works as being representative of a histor- ...

Part III. Changing the Subject

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7. Pueblo Sculptor Roxanne Swentzell: Forming a Wise, Generous, and Beautiful “I Am”

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pp. 161-180

As a contemporary Pueblo sculptor, Roxanne Swentzell is working within the challenges of two different cultural ideas about women, portraying both Pueblo women’s creative capacity and their unique gender position. While choosing to maintain some values she has lived as a Native American, Roxanne makes sculptures for a global community she also recognizes ...

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8.The Syncretism of Native American, Latin American, and African American Women’s Art: Visual Expressions of Feminism, the Environment, Spirituality, and Identity

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pp. 181-196

This chapter discusses aspects of traditional Native American religion/spirituality and traditional African religion/spirituality that are evident in the art of Latin American, African American, and Native American women artists. Artists that fuse both African and Native American religious symbols in a syncretic manner as well as those who are ...

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9. Dalit Women’s Literature: A Sense of the Struggle

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pp. 197-210

At a very broad level the Indian caste system refers to the hierarchical division of society based on ritual purity derived from lifestyles and hereditary occupations traditionally monopolized by the members of various caste groups. This hierarchy was sanctioned by religious texts. Dalit refers to the social groups defined as outcastes by the dominant caste groups....

Part IV. Home Is Where the Art Is: Shaping Space and Place

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10. The Role of “Place” in New Zealand Maori Songs of Lament

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pp. 213-230

The Ma\ori people of New Zealand have a word for “their place” in the landscape. They call it “t\rangawaewae” (a standing place for the feet). Being an oral people by inclination they have a way with words, as when orators exercise the right to which their turangawaewae entitles them, to stand on the marae (the ceremonial center of Maori cultural life) and ...

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11.Theater Near Us: Librarians, Culture, and Space in the Harlem Renaissance

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pp. 231-246

In the later years of the Harlem Renaissance, two successive theater groups rehearsed and produced their shows in the basement of a branch of the New York Public Library on 135th Street. Both groups were deliberately modeled on the Little Theater (or Art Theater) movement, originally a white, early twentieth-century project, defined as distinct from the ...

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12. Into the Sacred Circle,Out of the Melting Pot: Re/Locations and Homecomings in Native Women’s Theater

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pp. 247-264

While reflective of rich diversity among communities, home has always held a unique meaning among the over five hundred First Nations in North America. Far more than a just a geographic location, home, according to Paula Gunn Allen (1992), In

Works Cited

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pp. 265-282

About the Contributors

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pp. 283-286


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pp. 287-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780791479797
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791471616
Print-ISBN-10: 0791471616

Page Count: 315
Illustrations: 22 figures
Publication Year: 2007