body politić

By Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

via Shades of Noir


The definition of politić - or pɒlɪtɪk/- is an allegorical term used to characterise the people of a nation, state, or society considered collectively as an organised group of citizens. Politić therefore becomes a metaphor that likens a nation state to a mental corporeal, which has undoubtedly had serious historical repercussions throughout colonial history, especially in its applicability to the conditions of slavery. As this theme is being explored more than ever before in art - Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas - film - Get Out (Peele, 2017) or Black Panther (Coogler 2018) - and intersectional poetry - in its insights into the lived, everyday, collective experiences of people of colour - what now does the ‘black’ body politić look like, and how has this idea of body politics evolved in the present day?

Eschewing the real life hectic complexities of the black body and ideas of ‘blackness’, contemporary racism and the connective tissue that bounds black consciousness coalesces into a single territory of pain, as is contemplated by Claudia Rankine who characterises ‘the condition of [being] Black […] is one of mourning. (Rankine, 2015). Whilst Rankine’s critique is quite a devastating criticism, the notion of ‘blackness’ as a counterpart to the pervasive modality of ’whiteness’ is eloquently typified in the duality of her commentary which identifies the dynamics of mourning in a culture where ‘black lives continue to exist in a state of precariousness’ (ibid.).

But what about the possibility (and examples) of black liberation in the everyday?

Despite much of the dialog on the subject remaining highly localised to the American situation, in the modern world ‘black is as unimaginable without white as white is unimaginable without black. What we are is shaped by the other, for better or worse and the interaction is real’ (Cole, 2018). In this vein, cultural theorist Stuart Hall opted to characterise the question of black identity within a specific historical moment: ‘It has always been an unstable identity, psychically, culturally, and politically. It, too, is a narrative, a story, a history. Something constructed, told, spoken, not simply found … black is an identity which had to be learned and could only be learned in a certain moment’  (Hall [1987] 1996c, p. 116).

‘The body is steadily bombarded by the media… floating free in virtual realities and lost in neurotic networks; it can no longer convey an illustration of wholeness but rather become the expression of a fundamental disintegration of identity’ (anonymous, 2018). How then can we discuss the treatment of the black body in the present and the legitimacy of the claims of threat that it poses in consuming black bodies altogether?

Through looking at several high-profile art, film and pop-cultural references, we can together undoubtedly begin a discussion of the several types of consumption that impact upon the black body surrounding the turn of the century and beyond?

This ToR will explore this and more!

Key Questions

We can start this dialog by considering the following questions:

  1. What embodies ‘blackness in the white landscape’, and what does this look like to you?

  2. What are the differences between the British and American microcosms in the discussion of race?

  3. How is / can the body politić discussed in the everyday: includes types of manifestations, visualisations and framing)

  4. What about the possibility of black liberation?

  5. What is the applicability of a collective body politić in relation to black trauma?

  6. Are issues of ‘otherness’ still prevalent in today’s ‘post-racial’ societies?

  7. How are colonialist narratives linked to issues of the body politić?

  8. How can / has the idea of the body politić be located in film, art and poetry - with examples.

  9. How do artifacts such as memes contribute to the evolving body politić?

  10. What informs the many considerations of double consciousness and performance as integral to the black experience?