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"Calling Forth History's Mocking Doubles"

Feminist Studies PhD student Hale Konitshek publishes in Special Issue of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy
May 30, 2017

"Calling Forth History's Mocking Doubles" by Hale Konitshek
Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy
May 24, 2017

ABSTRACT: Hortense Spillers ends “Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe” with a provocative suggestion: “Actually claiming the monstrosity (of a female with the potential to ‘name’) … ‘Sapphire’ might rewrite after all a radically different text for female empowerment.” In this article, I knead the material, representational, and performative powers operating through conceptually separate and yet deeply entangled contested terrains: (1) the “real,” or the scene of “actual mutilation,” whose high crimes against the flesh coincide with (2) the construction of the “symbolic.” Through Baradian performativity, I read Spillers's theorization on the name as an event wherein proprietary relationships, which necessarily oscillate between material/signification binaries, are called forth in historical terrain in the moment of racial address. Paying close attention to her grammar, the first half of this article tracks Spillers's movement through an undercurrent of American historical mythology that, as she demonstrates, misnames the black mother. The rest of this article then takes up to what extent certain “mocking doubles”—minstrel and/or monstrous tropes resuscitated but not redeemed or even necessarily renamed—might agitate their way toward new texts for female empowerment and the cultivation of the black mother's power to “name.”

Read the full article online in the Hypatia Special Issue, Contested Terrains: Women of Color and Third World Women, Feminisms, and Geopolitics.