Kari Jegerstedt raises the question of how, if at all, it is possible to ‘give voice’ to the abjected, always already erased other, considering the simultaneous world-scattering and wor(l)ding effects of imperialism on writing and (post)colonial regimes of knowledge and subjectivity. Addressing the question from the perspective of the (self)critical white feminist, Jegerstedt revisits Carter’s short story “Black Venus,” lauded by critics for giving voice to Jeanne Duval, Charles Baudelaire’s Caribbean lover. Jegerstedt stresses that the narrator does not simply re-present Duval but quite explicitly substitutes her own ‘voice’ for Duval’s – thus enacting a similar overwriting of Duval’s voice to the one Baudelaire may be said to do. She goes on to argue that, rather than ‘giving voice,’ the story problematizes the (imperialistic) silencing which is at work in what Jacques Rancière has called the democratic era of literature. At the same time, however, the short story also points to the earlier oral tradition and the fairy tale as alternative narrative venues for establishing global solidarity, thus highlighting again the issue of genre in questions concerning the imagination.
Exploring the Black Venus Figure in Aesthetic Practices critically examines a longstanding colonial fascination with the black female body as an object of sexual desire, envy, and anxiety. Since the 2002 repatriation of the remains of Sara Baartman to post-apartheid South Africa, the interest in the figure of Black Venus has skyrocketed, making her a key symbol for the restoration of the racialized female body in feminist, anti-racist and postcolonial terms.
Edited by Jorunn Gjerden, Kari Jegerstedt, and Željka Švrljuga, this volume considers Black Venus as a product of art established and potentially refigured through aesthetic practices, following her travels through different periods, geographies and art forms from Baudelaire to Kara Walker, and from the Caribbean to Scandinavia.