Friday, September 08, 2006

Abstract for discussion paper i'm giving at AAA

‘Who ain’t dead, badly wounded.’

How do monstrous bodies and sexualised bodies talk to one another? What do they say? In Trinidad two distinct types of bodies dominate cultural life. One is the carnivalesque body – a naked, commodified, idealised sexuality of modern bikini and beads masquerades. The other is the grotesque body – a dead, maimed and murdered body that appears frequently in the media, on newspaper front covers and in daily conversations as the murder rate in ‘paradise’ reaches one person every day and a half.

The rise and visibility of these two distinct bodies has occurred in the same space at the same time – from the mid-1970s to present. As neo-liberalism increased and the body became commodified so violence and murder grew. While it is hard to make a causal connection, it is clear that a dialogue between two representations of the body, between laughter and grief, jouissance and mutilation, celebration and fear exists.

Through ethnographic interviews, historical data, discourse analysis and the cultural theory of Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze and Mikhail Bakhtin, I investigate the correlation between everyday images (sexual and violent) of the body in Trinidadian society and the constitution of subjectivity, nationhood and other social discourses.

The State, the media and the individual subject, all provide spaces of intersection and representation where these bodies impact, transgress and desensitise complex notions of violence, sexuality and community identity. What are people’s responses to the normalisation of bodies that would be considered marginal in other societies? How are they ‘incorporeated’ into discourse? What does consummation between these two bodies produce? What is the relation between one utterance and the other, or as Bakhtin would say, what are the dialogical relations between bodies usually considered separately?

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