8 Beyond The Black Venus Colonial Sexual Politics And-Books Pdf

8 Beyond the Black Venus Colonial Sexual Politics and
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166 Sandra Ponzanesi, universalising and essentialising nature of scientific knowledge when. based on biased racial assumptions In many cases the results of. ethnographic fieldwork or clinical trials obtained in the colonial set. tings journeyed back to the European heartland where they achieved. the status of pristine scholarly findings These cultural technologies of. domination as the American anthropologist Nicholas Dirks 1996 has. labelled them demonstrated European innate superiority over indigen. ous people and colonized the space of representation of the Other for. many decades to come, For example the image of the black Venus became a forceful. trope for expressing the contaminated and yet highly asymmetrical. relationship between the ruler and the ruled It allegorically rendered. and vindicated the position of the white male colonizers expanding. their authority and property over the virgin soil of the imperial terri. tory of which the black Venus is the quintessential emblem of the. other both in racial and in sexual terms The appropriation and subju. gation of the female exotic body was sustained by a meticulously. constructed racial grammar in which the Other was represented as. infantile irrational and prey to primordial sexual lust and conse. quently as mysterious and inherently subversive The representation of. local women as black Venuses by Western colonizers was strongly. eroticised and often overtly pornographic though often disguised as. ethnographical work aimed at classifying and categorising the differ. ent races of the empire As Ann Laura Stoler 1991 54 wrote sexual. images illustrate the iconography of rule not its pragmatics. Here I attempt an analysis of the roots and lingering influence of. these visual representations which for centuries have petrified colonial. women in their essentialized and fixed otherness I do so in order to. map the various imperial networks of knowledge that have been made. visible by recent postcolonial analyses These offer insights into the. causal relationship between colonial legacies and subsequent pro. cesses of ethnic and gender relations in contemporary multicultural. societies I start with the orientalistic portrayals of the Arab woman in. French paintings along with the more pseudo scientific debates around. Sarah Bartmann the famous Hottentot Venus who was displayed. around Europe as a cause celebre of black sexualized and deviant. Other These representations will help to place and explain the various. Beyond the Black Venus 167, representations of the Black Venus during the Italian colonial empire. I will close by addressing the persistence as well as subtle transform. ation of these representations in our times specifically in Italian. advertising, Orientalist representations, Delacroix s famous painting Women of Algiers in their Apartments. represents a milestone for Orientalism in the arts and for the construc. tion of the eroticised voyeuristic male gaze It offers a good opening. to an understanding of the genre of exoticism in photography which. reproduced Orientalist ideologies The term Orientalism of course is. based on an improper geographical reference since Orientalism. mainly concerned the representation of the Arabic world today s. Middle East or of African settings rather than of the Orient as com. monly understood i e China and Japan, Orientalism does not refer to specific artistic forms but represen.
tations that emphasize local costume settings of pictorial fascination. and these quite often have an explicit erotic charge Delacroix s. painting became famous because it claimed to make a faithful repre. sentation of a female harem a secret location banned from the sight of. men and certainly from foreign men Delacroix went to North Africa. in 1832 and managed after much negotiation to visit the house of a. local rais It turns out to be a proper Harem with women and children. bathed in gold and silk He drew several sketches and collected. textiles and other materials which aided him in creating a vivid. characterization of three languishing women who are rendered ana. tomically present in the flesh yet noticeably detached and enigmatic. He accentuates the secluded interior space to which women in the. Orient were relegated and kept under lock and key The painting s title. is indicative of seclusion luxury and eroticisation In his emphasis on. specific colours black and gold violet and red indigo lacquers and. embroidered materials lazy and passively reclining women static and. in an enclosed setting Delacroix deployed all indexes for triggering. otherness It is an inebriating and voluptuous representation a feast for. the eyes and senses Women are portrayed as trophies as the fetishist. 168 Sandra Ponzanesi, impulse for detail and superfluous objects demonstrates in the paint. ing In his feminine Orientalism women embody the sweetness of sub. jugation something that European women had lost as Delacroix him. self declared, In a later version of Women of Algiers 1849 the women are. portrayed from a greater distance the characters are less focused the. strokes less precise It emphasizes the women s loneliness and in. perennial waiting an illusional reality suddenly less regal and more. imprisoned The women in the painting maintain no relationship to the. spectator They are strangers to themselves absent from their bodies. their sensuality and their happiness but also very present in the airy. atmosphere of enclosure They do not abandon themselves nor do they. reject the gaze This painting represents a stolen gaze it puts us in. front of women that we have no right to look at The gaze represents. the trespassing of the threshold So this stolen gaze is inherently. dramatic the gaze of the thief the spy and the voyeur It is a stolen. gaze because it belongs to the foreigner not however so much to. establish a dialogue but only to fulfil the voyeuristic desire of the. Eug ne Delacroix Women of Algiers in their Apartment Oil on canvas 1834 1. Beyond the Black Venus 169, Eug ne Delacroix Women of Algiers in their Apartment Oil on canvas 1849. From the Hottentot Venus to the Black Venus, The imagery around the Black Venus in European literature has a long. pedigree As T Denean Sharpley Whiting writes in her Black Venus. Sexualized Savages Primal Fears and Primitive Narratives in French. the religious scholar Abelard wrote in his letters to his beloved. Heloise written between 1119 and 1143 that, As far as the Ethiopian is concerned such a wife prefers hidden pleasures.
Besides it so happens that the skin of black women less agreeable to the gaze. is softer to the touch and the pleasures one derives from their love are more. delicious and delightful Sharpley Whiting 1999 1, It is men who write most of these sexualized narratives of the black. Venus in French literature art and popular culture 2 The most famous. case is Charles Baudelaire and his relationship with his mulatto mis. tress Jeanne Duval captured in Les Fleurs du Mal with tangential. reference to Sarah Bartmann the Hottentot Venus Sarah Bartmann is. frequently referred to as an example par excellence of the represen. tation of Black female sexuality at the height of European empires. Sander Gilman s 1985 much quoted chapter The Hottentot and the. Prostitute Towards an Iconography of Female Sexuality describes. 170 Sandra Ponzanesi, the story of the black female Sarah Bartmann Hottentot or Bushman. woman who left South Africa in 1810 never to return in her lifetime. She was transported to Britain and France to be scientifically studied. as a cause celebre She was exhibited in Europe because of her ana. tomical abnormality The hyper development of her genitalia was con. sidered an aesthetic embellishment in her Khoikhoi culture to use the. name used by the people themselves and her protruding buttocks. were part of the unique build of her people However the Europeans. fascination with the enlarged buttocks or steatopygia and an elong. ated vagina had more to do with the product of western male sexual. fantasies than with any serious study of physiology It was argued that. her so called primitive genitalia mirrored her primitive sexual. appetite The woman was transformed into a spectacle which con. structed black female sexuality as pathologized deviant and de. graded This show was one of the most successful in London at the. time She was exhibited much like a wild beast in a cage 3. The white male gaze desires to unveil the female body but also. fixes the black woman in her place steadies her in order to decode. and conformably recode her into its own system of representation. Fanon 1968 110 11 The gaze is always bound up with power. domination and eroticisation It is a voyeuristic fetishized white male. gaze The crowd gazing upon Sarah Bartmann as the essential primi. tive as the underdeveloped savage unable to measure up to European. standards is undercut by her practically au naturel representation. From a purely ethnographic standpoint her unveiling the essential. nude exhibition except for the apron that covered her genitalia allows. one to best size her remarkable formation Sharpley Whiting 1999. 34 As Laura Mulvey 1993 19 writes in the Woman as Image Man. as Bearer of Look the female caught in the male gaze will always. signify male desires Male European writers and artists constructed an. image that is centered on one core narrative that of the Black Venus. Black females as perpetually ensnared imprisoned in an essence of. themselves created from without Sharpley Whiting 1999 10. Beyond the Black Venus 171, A French print entitled La Belle Hottentot depicts the Khosian. woman standing with her buttocks exposed on a box like pedestal. These misleading representations created the scientific conviction. that Sarah Bartmaan incarnated the missing link in evolutionary classi. ficatory discourses This not only affirms black inferiority but also. expresses the white patriarchy s construction of the black female body. and her genitalia that stems from a fear of female sexuality in general. The psychosexual and cultural implications of those representations. are a key to understanding the complexities of race class gender. sexuality and imperial culture, In their desire to illuminate the dark continent of black female. ness of racial and sexual alterity male European writers and artists. constructed one of the predominant narratives around the Harem and. Black Venus The advent of photography as a modern medium par. ticularly intensified and popularized the images of La Belle Algerienne. or of the Black Venus It created a link between the presupposed. scientific construction and the artistic representation of the racialized. female body between the aestheticized gaze of Orientalist paintings. and the racialized reading of the Hottentot Venus, 172 Sandra Ponzanesi.
Italian colonial sexual politics the construction of racial. gendered stereotypes in visual practices, The ideological construction of the colonized Other as different and. subordinate was also at the heart of Italian fascist propaganda which. utilized the emergent mass media which created a new popular cul. ture In order to create a clear binarism between colonizer and. colonized Italy had to construct an image of itself in direct hegemonic. opposition to that of the locals As Edward Said wrote in Orientalism. 1978 the creation of the Other was not only an invention a fabri. cation of the non European subject necessary to create and define. European sovereignty and superiority but also a projection of the. West s internal fears and unconscious desires He describes Orien. talism Said 1978 207 8 as an exclusively male province in which. women are usually the creatures of a male power fantasy They. express unlimited sensuality they are more or less stupid and above. all they are willing According to this ideological representation the. Orient is not only penetrated silenced possessed to sustain the meta. phor of the colonial rape but also static frozen fixed eternally. Italy constructed its ideological apparatus no differently from. other colonial powers though the modalities were obviously specific. to the Italian cultural tradition and highly coordinated under the fascist. rhetoric of Mussolini s bombastic regime Italy ventured into the. colonial late at a time when the major European empires were in. decline The expansion into Africa served to instil national cohesion. but also to project the image of a greater Italy to the outside world. However Italy s close proximity to the black continent was not only. motivated geographically and culturally but according to many. scholars also genetically 4 This contributed to the creation of a distinct. national identity constructed through its opposition to black people. marked as Other This capillary campaign of representation involved. all mass media press films radio programs advertisements songs. posters maps photography painting and travel accounts and reports. by explorers and ethnographers The portrayal of Italian grandeur as. echoing the mythic and majestic role of Ancient Rome was in distinct. Beyond the Black Venus 173, contrast to the portrayal of the natives as closer to nature This close. ness to nature made them unpredictable irrational and history less. with an inferior rank as the earliest human beings on the evolutionary.

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