Bodies and Violence

Bodies and Violence
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by:  [Zoltan Gluck] Date:  18 April 2016, At: 14:53 Anthropology Now ISSN: 1942-8200 (Print) 1949-2901 (Online) Journal homepage: Bodies   and Violence Angela Crumdy, Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, Zoltán Glück, Samuel Novacich, Sarah Molinari, Helen Panagiotopoulos, Cecilia María Salvi & Daniel Schneider To cite this article:  Angela Crumdy, Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, Zoltán Glück, Samuel Novacich, Sarah Molinari, Helen Panagiotopoulos, Cecilia María Salvi & Daniel Schneider (2016) CUNY Graduate School Student Collective: Bodies and Violence, Anthropology Now, 8:1, 67-77 To link to this article: Published online: 18 Apr 2016.Submit your article to this journal View related articles View Crossmark data  CUNY Graduate School Student Collective   Findings   67 findings  Anthropology Now  , 8:67–77, 2016 • Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 1942-8200 print / 1949-2901 online • DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2016.1153934 CUNY Graduate School Student Collective Bodies and Violence  Angela Crumdy, Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, Zoltán Glück, Samuel Novacich,  Sarah Molinari, Helen Panagiotopoulos, Cecilia María Salvi, Daniel Schneider Sabrina Strings. 2015. “Obese Black Women as ‘Social Dead Weight’: Reinventing the ‘Diseased Black Woman.’” Signs  41(1): 107–130. Jonah Steinberg. 2015. “The Social Life of Death on Delhi’s Streets: Unclaimed Souls, Pollutive Bodies, Dead Kin and the Kinless Dead.” Ethnos . 80(2): 248–271.Ashley Taylor. 2015. “The Discourse of Pathology: Reproducing the Able Mind through Bodies of Color.” Hypatia  30(1):181–198.Elizabeth P. Rahilly. 2015. “The Gender Binary Meets the Gender Variant Child: Parents’ Negotia-tions with Childhood Gender Variance.” Gender & Society   29(3): 338–361.Lydia Zacher Dixon. 2015. “Obstetrics in a Time of Violence: Mexican Midwives Critique Routine Hospital Practices.” Medical Anthropology Quar-terly   29(3): 1–18.Terrion L. Williamson. 2015. “In the Life: Black Women and Serial Murder.” Social Text 122  33(1): 95–114. Introduction Violence abounds in the world today. Gut-wrenching, brutal acts of mass murder and terror hit close to home for people who once felt secure. The recent murder of con-certgoers at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris is an acute example, to which should be added the similar attack at the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali; the 2014 murder of 43 Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College students from Iguala, Mexico; the kidnapping of at least 234 students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria; and shootings at schools, protests, and abortion clinics in the United States. When repre-sented by headlines, violence appears as an abnormality perpetrated by people who are inherently criminal, ideologically deranged and fanatical or intrinsically aberrant. How-ever, the articles reviewed in this edition of the Findings Collective come from a long tradition in anthropology that contests the common-sense perspective on violence as extraordinary. The breadth of subject mat-ter attests to the range of topics studied by anthropologists of violence, who reect on the ways common, but no less brutal, forms of violence sustain and interweave many societies.These articles approach violence by analyzing it as it appears ethnographically across a range of social domains: in clinics, hospitals and medical research; in families and schools; in illicit economies and on the street; in media representations; and in ideas about social value and human worth. In our introduction, we use these articles to think through how power and violence operate through categories, revealing how cultural    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   Z  o   l   t  a  n   G   l  u  c   k   ]  a   t   1   4  :   5   3   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   6  68   anthropology Volume 8 • Number 1 • April 2016 and ideological representations authorize the forms and targets of violence. Each ar-ticle demonstrates how ways of categorizing people and their bodies — black or white, healthy or ill, boy or girl, rational or irratio-nal, valuable or valueless — are made by and used in relations of domination to produce and yet simultaneously obscure violence. The rst three articles demonstrate the social eects of dening categories and marking their boundaries of inclusion and exclusion on people whose lives are both dened and obscured by them. Sabrina Strings’ “Obese Black Women as Social Dead Weight” focuses on how binary and hierarchized conceptual relations — such as healthy/ill, threatened/threat, living/dead, respectable/deviant — are used to mark o those social groups who must be “defended” from those who constitute the threat. While black women are made vulnerable to prema-ture death due to racism, sexism and poverty, Strings’ analysis of medical representations of black women shows how they are miscon-strued as the agents of their own mortality, as “killing themselves” (124). Jonah Steinberg’s analysis in “The Social Life of Death” con-siders how street children in Delhi are both made susceptible to violence and rendered its legitimate and expected victims. Stein-berg’s analysis uniquely considers the rela-tionship between individual members of a category and the category itself (the token/ type relationship). Whereas others assume, axiomatically, that to be a member of a kind (i.e., “street child” or “Black woman”) is to suer certain social consequences of kind-membership (urban indierence or anti-black misogyny), Steinberg shows how street chil-dren as “type” are made “grievable” when the “token” dead street child is marked o from his type as a generic icon of death and suering. In “The Discourse of Pathology,” Ashley Taylor exposes how assumptions of what constitutes able-mindedness and abil-ity authorize violence and exclusion by mak-ing the violence invisible in an apparent “common sense” of mental soundness and rationality. Discourses of pathology enable what Miranda Fricker has called “epistemic injustice,” or a disposition to perceive certain speakers/knowers as untrustworthy, irratio-nal or mad. 1  Taylor’s analysis exposes how categories of human embodiment — gen-der, skin color, size, beauty — link up with categories of human rationality — saneness, intelligence, credibility — to forge powerful, violent and hierarchical theories of human dierence. The second group of articles departs from the rst three by investigating ways that peo - ple resist, redene, undermine or expand the boundaries of categories that constrain their lives. Elizabeth Rahilly’s analysis in “The Gender Binary Meets the Gender-Variant Child” draws attention to how people at-tempt to innovate within or against received social categories — in this case, the “gender binary” woman and man (or girl and boy). Rahilly focuses on parents’ attempts to rene-gotiate or innovate within or against those categories for their children. In their attempts to complicate the categorical boundaries of the gender binary, however, parents in Ra- hilly’s study reinscribe a dierent categorical boundary, that between “nature” and “cul-ture.” In “Obstetrics in a Time of Violence,” Lydia Zacher Dixon considers how midwives in Mexico marshal typologies and theories of violence to describe the medical and gyne-    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   Z  o   l   t  a  n   G   l  u  c   k   ]  a   t   1   4  :   5   3   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   6  CUNY Graduate School Student Collective   Findings   69 cological abuse of indigenous women. Here, the power of categories is wielded by activ-ists, who give a politicized name (“obstetric violence”) to something that had been hid-den under depoliticizing language as “medi-cal care.” Midwife-activists use the power to name violence to transform relations be-tween indigenous women and medicine. The last article reviewed, Terrion Williamson’s “In the Life,” uses the occasion of the serial murder of Black women in Peoria, Illinois, to consider how “valuable” life is marked o  from “valueless” life, how making value is always violent and who ultimately pays the price. Williamson focuses on how categori- zation in itself is violent, not merely its eects or consequences. Her primary intervention is into the production of value/valuelessness: in lives themselves, in blackness, “in the life” and, nally, in alternative modes of sociality that may escape the violence of value when Black women in the life “refuse” to authorize themselves (97). The primary   categories of analysis for Williamson are value and value-lessness, which sort human lives and sanc-tion exploitation, dehumanization and, ulti-mately, death. A Weighty Diagnosis: Black Women and Disease Scientic racism, a body of theories and techniques used historically to justify racial slavery and contemporarily to justify ongoing racism, has long conceived of black people as “deviant,” as unable to control their “sensu-ous” nature and “animal appetites.” For black women in particular, this perceived deviance made their bodies targets for sexual violence and created a social perception among some people of black women as “dangerous” be-cause they were assumed to transmit disease. Sabrina Strings traces how recent obesity “epidemic” theories about African-American women are laden with preexisting notions about the “deadly” black woman who has become a burden — not only to herself, but also to society at large.Strings analyzes how overweight black women came to be considered “social dead weight” — a burden on public health re-sources and thus on the taxpayers who al- legedly shoulder nancial responsibility for health care — and burdensome to themselves and to their families (108). She demonstrates how this framing of black women is similar to how black women’s bodies and sexual-ity were associated with disease and danger in the past. She oers examples from medi -cine in which black women were diagnosed as deviant in the syphilis and tuberculosis “epidemics” of the 19th and 20th centuries. In these cases, medical theories blamed the spread of disease on black women’s “sexual licentiousness” and “risky” behavior. For ex-ample, it was assumed that black women sex workers, guided by their “primitive” sexual appetites and genitalia, carelessly infected their partners with syphilis (113). It was also suggested that black women domestic aids contaminated their employers’ clothing with tuberculosis when they transported the laun-dry for washing (117).Obesity, however, stands apart from these earlier examples because, in this case, black women’s sensual nature is thought to be ex-pressed through the consumption of food rather than through sexual exhibition. This notion of “sensuous” overeating is nonethe-    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   Z  o   l   t  a  n   G   l  u  c   k   ]  a   t   1   4  :   5   3   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   6  70   anthropology Volume 8 • Number 1 • April 2016 less rooted in an alleged lack of self-restraint. Further, it is only in this latter case that black women are considered to be both deadly and social dead weight — imminent threats to their own health and a collective drain on society’s material resources.Although concerns about the “health risks” of obesity circulated in the latter half of the 20th century, obesity policy shifted rapidly in the 1990s. In 1997, the World Health Organization established a denition of obesity (prior to which no clear demarca-tion existed), which resulted in reclassifying 30 million additional Americans as obese (118–119). The eect of this reclassication was to make it appear as though obesity itself was increasing rapidly.Subsequent studies further gendered and racialized obesity, through ndings that sug -gested black women — more than any other subpopulation — had the greatest likeli-hood of being overweight and obese. These studies appeared to give scientic authority to black women’s presumed cultural and moral abnormality assumed by some medi-cal researchers, despite earlier studies that found that black women were, on average, healthier at heavier weights compared to white women. Mainstream medical literature blamed “deviant black cultural ideals,” in-cluding excessive indulgence in high-calorie foods, sedentary lifestyles and maintaining a positive body image at higher weights, for the obesity “epidemic” among black women (122).Strings counters the denigrating popu-lar imagery about “obese black women” by arguing that blaming them obscures the marginalizing impact of structural and insti-tutional inequalities that shape the lives of many women of color, such as food insecu-rity and recent cutbacks in welfare and un- employment benets (124). Further, Strings asserts that the intense public focus on Af-rican-American women’s “obesity problem” must be situated within scientic racism’s long history in the United States, an ideology that has made the black female body appear racially and sexually deviant, even essen-tially unhealthy. Strings reveals how medical knowledge produced within and by a racially stratied society has not been able to avoid taking on and deploying racial meanings in its accounts of illness and health. She nds that throughout history the demarcation be-tween healthy and unhealthy bodies is inter-woven with and reproduces racial division and stratication. The Shifting Signicance of Public Death  Jonah Steinberg examines the relationship among death, social pollution and grief in the lives of Indian street children who are placed at continual risk by the work they do at a busy Delhi train station. Observing with profound discomfort the high number of fa-tal accidents that occur when children col-lect recyclable materials on the tracks, Stein-berg sets out to understand how street child deaths are narrated by activists, city ocials and the children themselves. Steinberg theo-rizes these deaths by considering the ways kinship (or its absence), the law, social space and caste intersect to make street children in Delhi highly susceptible to violence and ren-der them legitimate and expected victims of structural and immediate violence.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   Z  o   l   t  a  n   G   l  u  c   k   ]  a   t   1   4  :   5   3   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   6
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