The racialized body

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11 Scopus citations


It is racism that produces the racialized body. This body is formed through racist doctrine and belief, and is the channel and point of transmission through which a racist notion of humanity is inherited and passed down. In such thought, whose source can be traced back to the Enlightenment, the word ‘race’ refers to a universal essence that is both unique and indelible, but which manifests itself differently in the various world. This essay will begin by asking what it means to have ‘race’ lodged in the body, and what it might possibly mean to be free from such lodgement. My test case will be the work of the Martinican psychiatrist and writer, Frantz Fanon, who identified several scales of racialization–epidermalization, petrification, sociogeny, and a posthumanistic account of the human. These different structures are co-implicated but, since they are structurally and politically heterogeneous, they necessarily have to be understood as separate from one another: In Fanon's various texts, the racialized body is made up of several racist fantasies or ‘myths’ each myth is contiguous in so far as they fuse a Manichean logic – of self and other – with stereotypical languages and images of racial difference. Hence, in his study of racist texts – literary, philosophical, psychoanalytical, political – Fanon shows how racism has played a key role in the dissemination of epidermal myths, and how it has given the modern body a narrative and affective form that has been both systematic and singular. Racism has been formative not only to the genre and form of lived experience but also, more fundamentally, to the very notion of embodied experience itself. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon wrote: ‘wherever he goes, the Negro remains a Negro’ (BS, 173). The point being that the racialized body has often been the point of reception through which racism has become readable and natural but also, more tellingly, or, more worryingly perhaps, the racialized body has also formed a complex limit to the experience of the body as first of all belonging to a self.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Body in Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781107256668
ISBN (Print)9781107048096
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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