Call For Papers: Claiming Sarah Baartman: The Politics around Black Womanhood, Identity and Representation in Africa and the Diaspora

Hat tip: Zola Mumford

Call for Submissions/Edited Collection

The woman known as Sarah/Saartje Baartman, created into the infamous “Hottentot Venus,” (who was taken from South Africa, exhibited in London and Paris from 1810-1815, and her remains exhibited in Paris until her return and burial in South Africa in 2002), is the subject of contemporary, international discourse on how she is to be understood as an African woman, a South African national icon, a Diasporic/exiled spirit and a manifestation in contemporary modes of representing black women”s bodies in US and European discourse.

I am looking for essays for an edited collection that examines the politics around the Sarah Baartman/”Hottentot Venus” narrative. Relevant papers will theorize contemporary forms of representation and appropriation of African women (especially South African) and African Diasporic women and men. This collection is the first of its kind to offer a space for scholars, cultural journalists and activists to examine the legacy of Baartman’s life (which has been presented in various new biographies by Rachel Holmes, Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully). There is little know about Baartman, which is why the work that Dr. Yvette Abrahams is conducting at the University of the Western Cape, SA called the HERSTORY PROJECT, is seminal in finding an Africanist alternative rendering of a woman, whose life has left a profound impact on the ways in which Black women are displayed/represented the world over. The biographies on Baartman create larger gaps as they reconstitute the “Hottentot Venus” and speculate largely on Baartman, as woman, as African. This collection seeks to gather scholarly writing which grapples with Baartman, the person and the “Hottentot Venus” as figment of Euro-imagination, and the ways in which various groups are privileged to tell her story as authoritative and thus, factual. Specifically, this collections aims to present voices from non-US centered discursive spaces; prioritizing writing from Africa, the Caribbean, South and Central America and the Diaspora in Europe.

Relevant Papers will explore some of the following issues/questions:

What issues around voice/voicelessness/voices can be considered;
What issues around Baartman’s sexuality the “Hottentot” assumed hypersexuality can be considered;
What issues around duality (Baartman vs. Hottentot Venus) can be considered;
Issues of migration/exile;
Issues of agency;
Issues of contemporary representation (in literature/media/public/national spaces);
Issues of contemporary popular/consumerist cultural production;
Issues of location and liminality; rituals and sacredness;
Issues of national appropriation;
Issues of masculine re-appropriation (modern day “Hottietots”) in Western Hip-Hop videos;
KhoiSan cultural remittances on Baartman’s legacy;
Issues of slavery;
Issues of naming;
Questioning the academic space as site of discourse for Baartman’s narrative;
Claiming/insisting on womanist activism based on Baartman’s legacy;
Re-writing/re-writing/re-membering Baartman’s narrative from an African/Diasporic, non-Eurocentric perspective;
Critiquing the contemporary literature (fiction/poetry/biography/visual arts) published on Baartman;
Drawing connections with African media and Baartman’s legacy;
The HERSTORY Project: education and Baartman.

Please submit a complete draft of your essay and a brief CV (200 words) by June 30, 2009, as two separate MS Word documents in an e-mail attachment to: Essays should follow MLA style guideline and include parenthetical references for citations, endnotes and Works Cited pages. Papers must be written in English but all translations should be quoted in original language and translated as an endnote. Papers should include a provisional title and should be no more than 20 pages in length, single spaced. Do not hesitate to contact the editor, Natasha Gordon-Chipembere by email, if you have questions about the relevance of your potential contribution.

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