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Profiles of the black Venus : tracing the black female body in western art and culture, from Baartman to Campbell

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Profiles of the black Venus : tracing the black female body in western art and culture, from Baartman to Campbell

Provost, T. M. T (2001) Profiles of the black Venus : tracing the black female body in western art and culture, from Baartman to Campbell. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

During the Enlightenment, in the midst of the Trans-Atlantic slave era, the Hottentot Venus became an icon of racial, gender and ethnic difference, and continues to have a strong presence in contemporary western media. In 1810, Saartjie Baartman (1790-1815), a young Khoikhoi from South Africa, was one of the first named women to enliven this steatopygic allegory. Since Baartman, the subsequent transformations of the Black Venus circumscribe the Black female body in problematic ways. The thematic motifs of the bestial, sensual, savage and hypersexed persist in contextualising the body of the Black Venus in contemporary depictions. Why is the profile still so oft-reproduced in the west? What is the fascination with the unclothed Black female physique? What does the re-diffusion of the Black Venus as a prototype achieve in cultures that claim diversity as part of their national make-up? And what does this reproduction say about the changes of political structures regarding the representation and appropriation of the colonised? Using postcolonial theory, Black feminist theory, and semiotics, this analysis investigates the politics of representation of the Black Venus. Various versions--historical and contemporary--are examined as systems of repetition and ambiguity that allow racist and derogatory stereotypes of Black women to be reproduced. Methodological perspectives that treat race, gender, corporeality and ethnicity are employed to scrutinise the different processes of the making of the Black Venus--from conceptualisation of the corporeal allegory to the its final production as part of material culture. The approach is interdisciplinary, considering visual and textual works from different timeframes. Calling for a critical politicised study of the aesthetics of the Hottentot and Black Venus, this study also theorises the ways in which racist and sexist ideologies from the colonial era have become increasingly normalised. Especially examined are how fixity and transformation occur in imagery, and how the repetition and dissemination of the Black Venus impact on the social reality of Black women and the imaginary of the White mainstream.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Provost, T. M. T
Pagination:xii, 189 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Theses (Ph.D.)
Program:School of Graduate Studies
Date:2001
Thesis Supervisor(s):Acland, Joan Reid
ID Code:1614
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 13:20
Last Modified:08 Dec 2010 10:21
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