Beyond Racial Trauma: Remembering Bodies, Healing the Self

  • Denise Noble
Part of the Thinking Gender in Transnational Times book series (THINKGEN)


The previous two chapters highlighted how colonial liberalism deployed the biopolitics of race and gender in the production of taxonomies of freedom, in which Indian, African, Chinese and white populations were ascribed differential endowments of civility, measured largely in terms of colonial understandings of ethnicized gender and family arrangements. In these arrangements the colonially structured hierarchy of race, in which the African body represented the extreme baseline limit of humanity contrasted with whiteness as its pinnacle, was central to the logics of colonial governmentality. This chapter begins the process of returning to the present by using the example of the Sacred Woman African-centred women’s healing and personal development programme to examine the complexities of the postcolonial politics of gender and Black representation, and how some Black British women have drawn on an African American women’s healing programme in local practices of freedom aimed at addressing the local as well as diasporic realities of Black life. Through close textual analysis as well as the use of qualitative interviews with two women who have participated in the Sacred Woman programme, or similar African-centred women’s programmes, this chapter sets out to understand the formal discourse of the scheme, interweaving narratives from interviews showing how women have used it, and how it is interpreted by those women. The chapter will examine how the Black body is imagined and deployed strategically and non-strategically—in the untidy everyday tactics that some Black women use to empower themselves in struggles against the various individuals, groups, institutions and systems that they understand as blocking their path to autonomy, self-determination or freedom. These ‘new’ liberation struggles take place largely outside the old forms and arenas of politics, increasingly emerging at the level of the individual and acted out in the contours of the everyday, of the personal and on the body, producing a poetics and aesthetics of the self. By analysing how the racialized and gendered Black body is both represented and worked on in this programme, this chapter seeks to answer the following questions. What conceptions of personhood, freedom and the body are produced within the formal discourse of the programme? What is being problematized or brought into question? And what are we told about the problem-spaces to which these questions are a response? How might we use the discourse of the programme to identify the contemporary problem-spaces of the present to which it seeks to provide remedies and critiques?


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise Noble
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and CriminologyBirmingham City UniversityBirminghamUK

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