This essay will think through the possibilities that Hortense Spillers has engendered in her formulation of the flesh as a modality of Black feminist literacy, and map the contours of the current resurgence of her work in Black studies and Black feminist theory. Her landmark explication of the physical and psychic terrain of Black women’s gendering has created a network of post-publication relations that map how critical emphases around Black women’s affective and embodied experiences have changed since its publication. The interpretation of the essay has shifted as Black studies, queer studies, diaspora studies, critical theory, ethnic studies, and women’s & gender studies have tackled the nuanced difficulties of pursuing social, political, emotional, and embodied justice for Black women and girls. The recent cascade of attention to Spillers’s work in “Mama’s Baby” marks, I argue, a moment of disenchantment with recognized methodologies of representational politics; Spillers seems to offer the contemporary moment both a vocabulary and a literacy that appeals to innovative, affective understandings of justice for Black women & girls, one that sees cultural production as a necessary but not totalizing terrain for justice.


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pp. 25-45
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