Fantasies of identification : disability, gender, race - download pdf or read online
By Ellen Samuels
In the mid-nineteenth-century usa, because it grew to become more and more tricky to differentiate among our bodies understood as black, white, or Indian; able-bodied or disabled; and male or girl, severe efforts emerged to outline those identities as biologically distinctive and scientifically verifiable in a actually marked physique. Combining literary research, felony historical past, and visible tradition, Ellen Samuels strains the evolution of the “fantasy of identification”—the strong trust that embodied social identities are fastened, verifiable, and visual via sleek technology. From birthmarks and fingerprints to blood quantum and DNA, she examines how this myth has circulated among cultural representations, legislation, technology, and coverage to turn into probably the most powerfully institutionalized ideologies of contemporary society.
Yet, as Samuels demonstrates, in each case, the delusion distorts its claimed clinical foundation, substituting subjective language for claimed target truth. From its early emergence in discourses approximately incapacity fakery and fugitive slaves within the 19th century to its latest manifestation within the query of intercourse trying out on the 2012 Olympic video games, Fantasies of Identification explores the roots of contemporary understandings of physically identity.
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Additional resources for Fantasies of identification : disability, gender, race
10 Josephine Brown, daughter of the prominent abolitionist William Wells Brown, writes that “Ellen was as white as most persons of the clear Anglo-Saxon origin. 11 When Josephine Brown calls Ellen “the white slave,” she is clearly not suggesting that Ellen is a European kidnapped into slavery but rather is making the common abolitionist point that racial justifications of slavery were becoming increasingly more difficult to support, due to the “visible, progressive ‘whitening’ of the slave body throughout the century” (Wiegman 47).
The engraving shows the head and upper body of what appears to be a smooth-faced young white gentleman with curly dark hair escaping a top hat to cover his ears. He is dressed in a black suit and stiff white collar, with a light-colored tartan plaid sash crisscrossing his front. His face is not bandaged, and the “green spectacles” used during the escape appear to have been replaced by a pair with clear lenses. The only remaining element of the invalid disguise is the white sling, which no longer supports the figure’s arm but simply hangs around his neck, slightly tucked between elbow and body.
1 The many historical and literary studies of these related dynamics, however, have rarely addressed the contemporaneously emerging anxiety regarding the knowability of the disabled body. Yet this too is a fundamental and inextricable element of the identificatory crisis, and figures of feigned or suspected disability began to emerge prominently to represent this deepening fear. In one such figure, the fugitive slave and author Ellen Craft, we find all three forms of embodied social identity unmoored from physical and representational certainty, and so her story represents a touchstone for the eventual emergence of fantasies of identification surrounding disability, race, and gender.
Fantasies of identification : disability, gender, race by Ellen Samuels