Thu. Jul 7th, 2022

Introduction: What is Racializing Bodies?

In this essay, I briefly analyze the different ways that embodiment, medicine, and biopolitics have been racialized in the context of African American women’s reproductive health. Drawing on black feminist theories of the human that highlight how social relations are organized through day-to-day lived experiences as well as on critical analyses by black scholars in the political context of reproductive injustice, I examine how black feminist constructions of flesh, body parts, and technologies are linked to racialized bodies and discourses about race. I conclude that black feminist constructions of embodiment are useful not only in conceptualizing how racism and sexism are organized around the making, caring, and re-making of bodies, but also in challenging state-sponsored bureaucracies and ideologies that have historically constructed black bodies as nonhuman.
Thanks to: Alexia Stano [email protected] , National Network for African American Studies (NNAAS) http://nnaa.stanford.edu/about/membership.html
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“habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human” : “Introduction: What is Racializing Bodies?”
by Loretta Ross [email protected] : This essay focuses on a lecture I gave at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The lecture was entitled “Racism as a Political Disease.” I will provide a brief overview of the oppression of African Americans, especially with regard to reproductive oppression and inhumane treatment. A discussion of how race is deployed as a classification system will be discussed.

habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human
habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human

Methodology and Theoretical Approach of this Article

New critical race theorists and black feminist theorists have pushed the boundaries to develop theories of intersectionality and to move our understandings beyond a theory based on singular identities. In this article, I will discuss how black women’s reproductive health becomes racialized in the context of black women’s embodiment, medicine, and biopolitics. This paper builds on recent work by scholars who analyze how the body is racialized through medical technologies, while paying attention to the construction of black women’s bodies and their racialized embodiment in these contexts. [2] I will explain how black women are racialized as a result of both social relations and their own embodiment in the context of medicine, health care, and biopolitical systems. In the context of black women’s reproductive health, I will discuss how black women are racialized in the framework of medicine and race theories. I will also discuss how black women’s bodies are racialized in these contexts, focusing on the intersections between race, gender, and disability/biopower. I will end this paper by discussing how these gendered and racialized understandings of body-as-machine intersect with bio-power.

habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human
habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human

Theorizations of Race and Gender in Black Feminist Theory

In feminist theory, race is a constantly evolving concept that is used to explain how patriarchy has developed and continues to reproduce itself. At the same time, women of color in the United States continue to struggle against various forms of racialization, even as the nation’s politics shift back and forth over race and gender relations. Feminist scholars who have written about race use different perspectives. Some feminist scholars highlight how race and gender are mutually constituted. [3] Others focus on how racialization operates in the context of distinctive experiences of sexuality, or they consider how gender is racialized when it is gendered through race. [4] Still others offer a critique of liberal feminism, which focuses on gender inequality but not the oppression of women of color. [5] Feminist scholars who have contributed to the study of race and gender in Black Feminist Theory, a new field, have chosen to highlight the ways that race shapes gender.

habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human
habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human

Racializing Bodies as Biopolitical Practices through Black Feminist Embodiment

Black women in the United States are subject to multiple forms of racialization. On a small scale, these experiences are described by black feminists such as Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a woman?” [5] and Audre Lorde, who explains that she has an “unearned right to be angry.” [6] On a large scale, black women and their bodies are racialized when they are stereotyped as hypersexual, matriarchal, and promiscuous; when they are excluded from higher-paying jobs because of the assumption that black women will have children; and when their sexuality is seen as animalistic. The intersection of race and gender in the lives of black women in the United States and the black-woman-as-biopolitical-practice in contemporary discourse are brought together and analyzed through the intersection of black feminist theory and Black Feminist Critique. Using cultural studies, critque, and cultural critique as analytical tools, this paper argues that a biopolitical perspective on black women specifically as a research object is necessary to understand the intersection of race and gender in both theory and practice. [7]

habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human
habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human

Conclusion

Black feminist theories of the human are grounded in and emerged from the lived experiences of Black women and other women of color in the United States. As such, they are also concerned with developing theoretical frameworks that intentionally interrupt patriarchal conceptualizations and social practices—the “don’t hit me” mode of thinking about race, gender, and sexuality. [7] In this article, I have outlined how flesh, body parts, and technologies became racialized in the context of medicine, health care, and biopolitics for black women. In doing so, I have also demonstrated how the human is racialized by creating the category of “the Negro” in Black women’s personal, cultural, and political lives. The outcome was an epistemology that was not merely a rejection of the human but rather an effort to retrieve the human through black lesbian feminist thought.
In order to best understand these developments, it is important to begin by considering what a critique of race might look like in Black feminist thought. In the context of my study of black women, feminist, and queer political theory, I have argued that there are essentially three dimensions or dimensions of the racialization process.
There is an epistemological dimension—an understanding of how humans and the human body were understood in these historical moments.
There is a materiality dimension—how bodies were organized and manipulated through medical practices, scientific theories, and other technologies at a given historical moment.
And there is a social dimension—a social practice, construct, or ideology that emerged in response to the materiality of bodies with particular target groups.

habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human
habeas viscus: racializing assemblages, biopolitics, and black feminist theories of the human