Scenes of Subjection

Slavery, the Black Female Body, and the Uses of Sexual Violence in Haile Gerima's Sankofa

in Screen Bodies
Author: Z'étoile Imma1
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  • 1 Michael S. Field Assistant Professor, English and Africana Studies, Tulane University, USA zimma@tulane.edu
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Abstract

In Haile Gerima's Sankofa (1993), a film that confronts the horrors of slavery, sexual violence is a central and repetitive trope. In this article, I explore how Gerima employs representations of rape as a filmic strategy to expose the brutality of slavery and its aftermath as well as to illustrate the magnitude of Black women's tenacity in the face of subjugation. I argue that, while the visual repetition of the white male slaveholder's sexual violation of the Black female body is a dangerously problematic trope, Gerima's film reenacts the terrible banality of sexual exploitation of the enslaved and significantly performs a conscious objectification to make visible the history of white supremacist violence and Black women's nuanced and complex forms of survival, resistance, and fugitivity.

Contributor Notes

Z'étoile Imma is Michael S. Field Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at Tulane University, where she is also affiliated with the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Her research explores the politics of gender, sexuality, feminism, and decolonization in contemporary African cultural production. Dr. Imma's work has been published in Research in African Literatures, The Journal of Lesbian Studies, Callaloo, Agenda, and The Journal of African Cultural Studies. Email: zimma@tulane.edu

Screen Bodies

The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

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