In this special issue we focus on processes of europeanisation and the work of colonial legacies and their impact on the production of the european body, a body that is always already racialised, classed and gendered. ‘european body’ can be observed in discourses and practices that constitute the normal/desired/legitimate body and concomitantly impacts notions about the civilised/cultured body, often linked to whiteness, secularism, legitimate class and gender performances. We ask to look back across pasts and into the present in order to explore who currently marks the boundaries of what is considered civilised, cultured, “normal” and comes to define what is considered a european body. What embodies the present, which and whose body epitomises europeaness and how does europeanisation generate (tacit) knowledge about the legitimate body?
Who Embodies europe? Explorations into the Construction of european Bodies
Anika Keinz and Paweł Lewicki
Democracy, Identification, and Embodiment
The significance of embodiment has long been overlooked in theories of deliberative democracy. Deliberation is characterized by inclusive and rational discussion that functions in an allegedly neutral and abstract space. This article draws attention to the bodies between which political interaction always occurs. Bodies have important yet unpredictable effects for political interaction and can extend or disorder the careful conscious conversation invoked by deliberative democrats. Identities are reproduced by bodies, and bodies may conform to or transform their identifications. Using Merleau-Ponty's notion of habitual knowledge, the article argues that bodies provide limitations, capacities, and opportunities for democratic politics. At the same time, bodies and their identifications are themselves transformed through deliberation and other types of political experience.
Crossing Boundaries in New Disability Documentary Cinema
Documentary film has traditionally perpetuated damaging cultural understandings of disability. However, Astra Taylor’s Examined Life (2008) and Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Shameless: The Art of Disability (2006) utilize documentary techniques to problematize the culturally constructed boundary between disability and able-bodiedness. Spectators are dragged into simultaneously traditional and innovative relationships with the spaces, bodies, and lives inhabited by the documentaries’ disabled subjects. These relationships encourage connection and intimacy even as they contain moments of distance and alienation. The films’ ambivalent representations foster an appreciation of disabled bodies as a reflection of valuable human diversity and a denaturalization of disability’s Otherness. As examples of new disability documentary cinema, the documentaries reflect the political potential of complex and affective representations of disabled subjects.
Consider two instances of screened bodies. The first comes from the article published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy where a group of urologists and radiologists attempted to “confirm that it is feasible to take images of the male and female genitals during coitus and to compare this present study with previous theories and recent radiological studies of the anatomy during sexual intercourse” (Faix et al. 2002: 63). In their well-illustrated study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screen shots—often simplified and clarified with keyed line drawings—they address the history of trying to imagine and depict heterosexual intercourse, the movement, shape, and position of engaged male and female genitalia, and the factors affecting arousal and orgasm. (The study can only suggest the possibility of two types of vaginal orgasm as the man climaxes once during the experiment while the woman does not. Clitoral stimulation is mentioned but not pursued in the study.) The researchers assert the parameters of “normal” private and sexual lives and echo “natural” expectations with regard to sex, gender, sexuality, and sexual positions and practices. They involve themselves in visual analyses of drawings, sketches, ultrasound displays, and MRI monitors—discussing the details and features of the various technologies and the advantages and drawbacks of the different experimental conditions. They make a special note of “the couple” not experiencing difficulty having intercourse during the four sessions and mention the man’s consumption of Viagra.
The Politics of the Vagina in Brazil and South Africa
Lisa Beljuli Brown
This article looks at ideas and practices around female virginity in Brazil and South Africa. In South Africa, virginity testing of girls as young as six occurs. In Brazil, speculation about female virginity can have a devastating impact on young women's lives. In both contexts the intactness of the vagina becomes a symbol of a woman's worth as well as a reflection of national well-being or decline. I use feminist psychoanalytic theory to connect such valuations and practices to a perceived threat to the symbolic order of language, culture and law. I argue that during times of social upheaval the vagina comes to represent the abject, or a threat to the subject, and is policed in order for dominant meanings to remain intact. As women's experiences in both contexts demonstrate, these meanings are implicated in a violent economy of women's body parts, which render women symbolically homeless. Yet in Brazil, women subvert these valuations in an ongoing struggle for subjectivity, which involves the creative appropriation of soap operas, and the conversion of suffering into pleasure.
An Interview with Ishmael Hope and Will Geiger on Tlingit House Screens and Indigenous Phenomenology
Sol Neely, Ishmael Hope and Will Geiger
On a cold, snowy January night in Juneau, Alaska, Will Geiger and I convened at Ishmael Hope’s home—with his wife, Lily, and their five children—for dinner and cordiality in advance of our recording session. The Hope family is exceedingly generous with their time and knowledge, and, as is the case whenever we gather at the Hope home, one can palpably discern the multigenerational inspirations and relations that sustain their work, artistry, and community involvement. Once the children went to bed, we dimmed the lights and pulled out our books.
When the editors of Screen Bodies told me that the journal was interested in expanding notions of screen beyond cinema, I inquired about the possibility of interviewing Ishmael Hope and others on Tlingit house screens and, by a kind of phenomenological appeal, of focusing the conversation through a concern for embodiment. Originally, Ishmael and I invited Will Geiger and Forest Haven, a brilliant Tsimshian PhD candidate from University of California, Irvine, to participate, but Forest was unfortunately unable to attend. Over the years, I have worked closely with these three on a number of academic projects, developing a tight and trusted friendship sustained by mutual respect and interwoven eruditions.
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.
Two Hong Kong Women Filmmakers' Perspectives on Sex after 1997
Hong Kong women have been taking up the camera to explore the changing nature of their identity. Linking the depiction of the gendered body with the demand for women’s rights as sexual citizens, several directors have examined changing attitudes toward women’s sexuality. Yau Ching, for example, interrogates the issues of sex work, the internet, and lesbian desire in Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong (2002). Barbara Wong’s documentary, Women’s Private Parts (2001), however, uses the televisual talking head interview and observational camera to highlight the way women view their bodies within contemporary Chinese culture. By examining the common ground shared by these very different films, a vision of women’s sexuality emerges that highlights Hong Kong women’s struggle for full sexual citizenship.
This issue acknowledges the work of Rosalie Fish (Cowlitz), Jordan Marie Daniels (Lakota), and the many others who refuse to ignore the situation that has allowed thousands of Indigenous women and girls to be murdered or go missing across North America without the full intervention of law enforcement and other local authorities. As Rosalie Fish said in an interview regarding her activism on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG),
"I felt a little heavy at first just wearing the paint. And I think that was . . . like my ancestors letting me know . . . you need to take this seriously: “What you’re doing, you need to do well.” And I think that’s why I felt really heavy when I first put on my paint and when I tried to run with my paint at first. . . . I would say my personal strength comes from my grandmas, my mom, my great grandma, and I really hope that’s true, that I made them proud." (Inland Northwest Native News interview)