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“Crimes against the Flesh”

“Crimes against the Flesh”

Politics and Poetics of the Black Female Body

Chapter:
(p.39) 2 “Crimes against the Flesh”
Source:
African Diasporic Women's Narratives
Author(s):
Simone A. James Alexander
Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813049823.003.0003

This chapter politicizes the female body using Lorde's personal, embodied experiences with breast cancer to articulate that the erasure of the female body constitutes “high crimes against the flesh.” The assault on Lorde's flesh is two-fold, first, the state's (the Cancer Society) requirement that she normalizes her diseased body by donning prosthetic breasts after her mastectomy, and second, the obliteration of her lesbian identity, positing compulsory heterosexuality as the norm. Lorde's deviance, manifested in her sexual orientation—her lesbian identity—is criminalized even as she challenges the concept of the “deviant or criminalized body.” As a transnational subject, Lorde not only traverses multiple borders, but she also embodies multiple “incompatible” identities. In equal manner, Lorde's lesbian identity calls into question her right to citizenship.

Keywords:   Prosthetic, Mastectomy, Criminalized, Lesbian

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