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In the sea of memory : embodiment and agency in the black diaspora

By Bibi Bakare-Yusuf


This thesis is a sustained meditation on the relationship between embodiment, memory\ud and cultural creativity in the black diaspora. It seeks to generate a theoretical vocabulary\ud outside the stale polarisation between essentialism and anti-essentialism. Using the\ud phenomenology of lived experience, I contend that black diasporic memory and identity\ud are actively constructed within each present. I argue that bodily expression is part of a\ud broader set of cultural strategies of self-definition, self-maintenance and self-preservation.\ud In the case of the black diaspora, the past is evoked, invoked and provoked\ud into existence once again through each expression of embodiment. A key concern in the\ud thesis is therefore to highlight the active capacity of the body to recreate its world and in\ud the process empower, renew and re-orient itself in the face of adversity and oppression.\ud Rather than succumb to an account of black diasporicity as either a history of pain or the\ud background of cultural hybridity, I argue that the pleasures and pains of black\ud diasporicity are different aspects of the same ongoing phenomenon. Through the\ud example of Jamaican dancehall culture, I show how the adorned, transgressive dancing\ud body of dancehall women creates a dynamic of eroticised autonomy in an otherwise\ud hostile environment. In sum, my thesis provides an analysis of the dynamics of diasporic\ud identity and the antiphonies of continuity and discontinuity

Topics: DT, GN
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