Once More With My Sistren: Black Feminism and the Challenge of Object Use

Feminist Review 126 (1):1-18 (2020)
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Recent years have seen an increased interest in black feminism. Whether thinking of the explosion of activism, the reprinting of classics such as Heart of the Race and Finding a Voice or the numerous journalistic or scholarly inquiries into black feminist formations in Britain in the 1970s–1990s, black feminism is a topic of interest once again. Sometimes it goes under other names: POC feminism, Womanism, Fugitive Feminism—each of which offers a specific inflection of this thing I am calling black feminism. Given this context, my aim in this article is to consider how black feminism might be conceived—what kind of an object it is, but more importantly how it might be ‘used’ and utilised as a vibrant and well-honed tool in the armory with which we attempt to craft a politics of ethical freedom. I attempt to draw together work from the theoretical archive of black women’s writing with that of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and his theorisation of ‘object use’ and ‘play’, as foundation stones in the development of a capacity for ethical relating based on the detoxification of racism’s effects on ‘self’, ‘other’ and the intersubjective field that the space between these constitutes. In my mind, the piece is a ‘call’ hoping for a ‘response’, the chorus is ‘black feminism’.



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