Where did this “bodies” thing start? Anyone know?
One, I don’t see what it adds, and worse, two, I think it obfuscates.
I’ll explain what I mean, using Anthony Pinn’s essay for examples.
A society in which Trayvon Martin could be perceived as out of place within his community takes its ideology and ethics from an old system of property, in which black bodies were to be monitored, rendered docile, and controlled.
Why is that an improvement on saying “an old system of property, in which black people were to be monitored, rendered docile, and controlled”?
It doesn’t seem to me to be an improvement at all. It doesn’t seem to add anything, because it’s not even true, except in the trivial sense in which you could also say “…black feet/teeth/elbows were to be monitored etc along with the rest of them.” It wasn’t just black bodies that were to be bullied and controlled, it was all of them.
There’s the old Stoic idea that the mind can remain free even while the body is imprisoned, but I don’t think that’s what Pinn is saying, or what other Theory types who use the word this way are saying. The idea is clearly to be anti-sentimental, and the “free mind in an enslaved body” trope is pretty sentimental, even if there is something to it. I really don’t think Pinn is saying that the system of slavery left the minds of slaves free.
But then why use the word that way? To remind everyone that the bodies were exploited? But surely that’s not a secret, and anyway it matters – it matters enormously – that it was the whole person who suffered, not just the body.
Why is this “bodies” trope not just dualism? Surely Theory types don’t want to come across as dualists, do they? So what’s their point?
This old system worked based on the logic that black bodies were dangerous bodies and how they occupied space had to be watched closely. In a word, the system of slavery – the Atlantic slave trade – required a particular understanding of black bodies that continues to inform social interactions in the twenty-first century.
Same again. Why bodies? What does that add? It’s not even true, and it doesn’t add anything. It wasn’t black bodies that were seen as dangerous, it was black people, minds and all. The system of slavery required a particular understanding of black people, not just their bodies. The more I say it the more ridiculous it sounds, as if we were talking about department store dummies, or zombies.
I don’t get it. I do not get it. It looks more insulting than anything else (which is obviously not Pinn’s intention, or that of anyone who deploys this word this way). I need assistance. (It’s not as if you can Google it. Google “bodies”? Yeah right.)