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transcending silence...
Spring 2009 Issue

Introduction


In the sixth issue of transcending silence… we highlight numerous dimensions of body politics. The essays and art work in this issue focus on the problematic ways in which bodies are affected both internally and externally. The body under siege is not one that can be understood through a singular viewpoint; rather, it requires an intersectional lens in which the social determinants of race, class, and gender are explored.

One manifestation of the body under siege is the effects of starvation, as explored in Verena Wendel's Starvation Series. Wendel's artwork contrasts women and children who face starvation, caused by limited resources, with young women who experience starvation in the form of eating disorders. Crafting sublime visuals from Lithographic prints, Wendel examines these threatened and emaciated bodies through global and local politics.

While starvation represents one form of physical violence, the more recognized form of sexual violence is addressed in Derek Warwick's essay, "Sexual Colonialism." Warwick examines the colonial framework for Aboriginal women's experiences of gender-based violence in Canada. He specifically brings attention to the need for intersectional analysis of these issues.

Warwick’s urgent call for intersectional analysis of racialized sexual violence is superbly taken up by Maureen Stutzman in her groundbreaking essay, "Rape in the American Civil War." Through original research and feminist historical analysis, Stutzman highlights the intersections of race, class, and gender, as well as the social ideologies influencing rape laws during the Civil War. By venturing into new areas of research, when told that sexual assaults were rare during the American Civil War, Stutzman discovers an unknown court-martial case, which sheds light on the racial dimensions of sexual violence. 

Nineteenth-century American culture, which provides the context for Stutzman’s essay, also gave birth to the Mammy image, a subject explored in Jennifer Kowalski's essay, "Stereotypes of History." In this informative work, Kowalski analyzes how the image of the Mammy is portrayed throughout history and continued in modern times. The Mammy as a black female archetype is not only a figure from the past but is still relevant in today's popular culture. Using examples as diverse as nineteenth-century advertisements and Tyler Perry's "Madea" persona, Kowalski presents an illustration of this popular stereotype and discusses its effects on culture.

Such visual representations of the female body are explored, challenged, and dismantled in the experimental short film Coup de Foudre by Stacie Sells and Cassandra Troyan.  In this provocative work, Sells and Troyan examine the sexual objectification of women and the challenges they face when disrupting conventional representations of the female body. Through the use of symbolism and avant-garde techniques, their video acts as a means to move beyond objectification while acknowledging the difficulty in doing so in their attempts to create subjectivity.

Overall, the works featured in this issue bring to our attention the political importance of our bodies and how they impact our diverse experiences and representations.

--Christine Cretser, Janell Hobson, Jiel Latimer

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