Questions of Presence

Feminist Review 117 (1):1-19 (2017)
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Abstract

This article considers some of the ways in which ‘the black woman’ as both representation and embodied, sentient being is rendered visible and invisible, and to link these to the multiple and competing ways in which she is ‘present’. The issues are engaged through three distinct but overlapping conceptualisations of ‘presence’. ‘Presence’ as conceived (and highly contested) in performance studies; ‘presence’ as conceived and worked with in psychoanalysis; and ‘presence’ as decolonising political praxis among Indigenous communities. I use these conceptualisations of presence to consider the various ways in which the black woman as figure and as embodied/sentient subject has been made present/absent in different discursive registers. I also explore what is foreclosed and how this is itself linked to legacies of colonial ‘worlding’. I end with consideration of alternative modes of black women's presence and how this offers a resource for new modes of sociality.

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