David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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History and Theory 41 (4):56–71 (2002)
“Talking Back to Frida: Houses of Emotional Mestizaje” is, in part, a historical meditation on the silencing of three women, Frida Kahlo, Maria Enríquez, a Mexican woman who was sexually assaulted in 1924, and me. Written in an innovative historical fashion that joins techniques drawn from fiction, journalism, and history, the article attempts to understand specific assaults on women’s voices by drawing readers into the historical worlds of the protagonists. “Talking Back” also seeks to respond to Hans Kellner’s incisive theoretical challenge: how do historians’ person histories affect their historical choices? The article’s organization depends on my understanding of language, color, and physicality, as the emotional architecture of the Deep Southern and Mexican places tend to both enclose and partially free the protagonists. The essay begins by leading the reader into my own past in the Deep South, a past where German Jewish and Russian Jewish relatives engaged in a cultural battle over form, personal style, and will. Confronting a German Jewish world where only things—never feelings—seemed to matter, I found solace in the friendship of a black servant. That friendship, in turn, helped prompt a particularly empathic historical voice. The southern section is followed by a journey into Frida Kahlo’s Mexican world. In that world, Kahlo’s severe physical pain and solitude construct inner and outer universes. The people who populate these worlds are friends, lovers, husband, and the Mexican poor. Kahlo’s artistic renditions of these people reflect, the article suggests, both the depth of her love for them and a tendency to use them in response to her despair. Finally, “Talking Back” reconstructs the world of María Enríquez, a Michoacán peasant woman assaulted in public by her former boyfriend. Abandoned by friend, sister, and Catholic women on the way to church, Enríquez develops a voice laced with generosity, cultural insight, and a rare self-possession
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