Chapter 3 Black Bodies, “Black Panther”

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
Authors:
Paul C. Taylor
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Sarah DiMaggio
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Holly Longair
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Takunda Matose
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to study the film “Black Panther” as a contribution to the black aesthetic tradition and as a form of somaesthetic exploration. Our argument is that the film uses somatic aesthetics, and particularly somaesthetics, to provide a counter-hegemonic depiction of Black bodies and to explore the lived experiences of Black bodies in motion. We begin with three commitments that are central to the argument: that there is a Black aesthetic tradition, that somatic aesthetics is a coherent and internally complex field of inquiry within that tradition, and that the idea of Africa often gets mobilized as a resource for African American racial(izing) projects. From that theoretical basis, we provide our reading of the film’s experiential argument, beginning with the film’s counter-hegemonic representation of black beauty and movement, and then using Fred Moten’s description of intermodal transfer to present a racial-kinaesthetic reading of a pivotal set of scenes from the film. In particular, we emphasize the important role that the embodied kinaesthetic experiences of black women play in these scenes and throughout the film. We conclude that “Black Panther” presents an innovative, if imperfect, attempt to navigate the somatic aesthetic problem-space in the Black aesthetic tradition.

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