Under Cuvier’s Microscope: The Dissection of Michelle Obama in the Twenty-First Century



This is the language one engages when climbing the precipitous slope connecting the legacy of the colonial [British and Dutch] “encounter” with the KhoiSan peoples of Southern Africa in the fifteenth century with contemporary popular culture discourse on the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. My chapter posits two arguments, namely that nineteenth-century European scientific racism etched a language that became the cornerstone for representations of Sarah Baartman, which in effect was transferred onto millions of African and African disaporic women’s bodies, culminating in the current display, discussion, and dissection (ala Cuvier) of Michelle Obama. Secondly, I suggest that Michelle Obama has succeeded in disrupting this lens and language through the ownership of her body. The last two years (2008–2010) of international media flurry has solidified the schizophrenic relationship the North has had with black femininity. Placed on the dissection table of the Western gaze, Michelle Obama’s body has been serrated with questions of her human-ness by the simple nature of her black womanhood (Barack Obama’s dissection is not nearly the same as Michelle’s and gender plays a central role in the difference.


Black Woman Black Body Sexual Fantasy Music Video Racial Hatred 
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© Natasha Gordon-Chipembere 2011

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