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1 INTRODUCTION Dis-Embodied Subjects Writing Fire They’re treating my resistance to their diagnosis as a personal affront. But it’s my body and my life and the goddess knows I’m paying enough for all this, I ought to have a say. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes—everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor! —Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light I am even more certain that to create dangerously is also to create fearlessly, boldly embracing the public and private terrors that would silence us, then bravely moving forward even when it feels as though we are chasing or being chased by ghosts. —Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously A few years ago at a seminar on “Health and Bodies,” I had the good fortune of sharing my work on Audre Lorde with fellow participants. By all accounts, the seminar was successful; the seminarians offered meaningful suggestions and feedback on ways to improve the work. One woman colleague or participant asked, “Who is the intended audience, and how will this project be accepted?” She further constructed “the audience as a class for black feminist theory in which case a discussion of Lorde’s work would be appropriate.” Other participants remarked, “Since you are using black bodies to speak about all bodies, the project fits within a canon of black, feminist political activists/authors.” “If you had someone from another ethnic class, it would be quite different.” “Use different authors 2 · African Diasporic Women’s Narratives so it doesn’t appear as though they are coming from one community.” Another concern raised was Lorde’s relevance today having written her memoir so long ago.1 Even while alive, Lorde was extremely controversial, particularly among white feminists, whom she accused of perpetuating racism.2 So it should be no surprise that even after her death, her work continues to evoke such emotional responses. These responses arguably stemmed from a sense of disease with the representation, occasioned by the choice of theorists and, by default, the theoretical framework.3 Hortense Spillers remarks: “The charges leveled against Black Studies and Women’s Studies, especially the former, in the initial period of their instauration—that the subject(s) were ‘unresearched,’ among other indictments—were blind to a material fact of discursive production—discourses do not spontaneously appear, but as writing, as an intellectual technology, they will follow the path and tide of generation” (Black, White x). She concludes, “An investigator will not ‘find’ what he or she is looking for, but will have to partially ‘create’ the differentiation against the stubbornness of tradition” (x). Furthermore , Lorde’s personal embodied experiences did not fit, nor did she strive to fit, into the framework of the larger theoretical discourse. Rather, she unequivocally and unapologetically challenged the dominant mainstream discourse. Spillers ascertains that this perceived effortless challenge was occasioned because “the intransigent (and arbitrary) borders of the canonical were fragile to start with, predicated, as they were, on the reified properties of ‘race’ and ‘gender’” (x). Along these lines, one can safely argue that Lorde’s success, or moreover her relevance, is manifested in her ability to “create dangerously.” Concurring that “creating dangerously” is a corollary to “reading dangerously ,” Danticat surmises that this concept captures the essence of a writer: “Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer” (Create Dangerously 10).4 Spillers concretizes this concept, arguing that “Toni Morrison’s Sula is a rebel idea, both for her creator and for Morrison’s audience” (Black, White 93). In other words, “in bringing to light dark impulses no longer contraband in black American women’s cultural address, the novel inscribes a new dimension of being, moving at last in contradistinction to the tide of virtue and pathos that tends to overwhelm black female characterization in a monolith of terms and possibilities” (93). In keeping with this line of reasoning, Lorde (and fellow authors Grace Introduction: Dis-Embodied Subjects Writing Fire · 3 Nichols, Maryse Condé, and Danticat herself) did not fall short of “creating dangerously.” Underscoring what she deems as Albert Camus’s most viable interpretation of “creating dangerously,” Danticat construes it as “creating as a revolt against silence, creating when both the creation and the reception, the writing and the reading, are dangerous undertakings, disobedience to a directive” (Create Dangerously 11). Boldly engaging...


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