Bodies Bearing the Brunt

June 15, 2017

An idea has been echoed by three writers from vastly different latitudes: the concept that political (and thereby personal) trauma is physically housed in the body. This trauma can be passed down from generation to generation, especially to receptive bodies straddling the here-and-now and liminal space. The essays by these writers—Billy Ray Belcourt, Ashon Crawley, and Edgar Calel—not only address the historical violence explicitly perpetrated against subjugated groups, but also touch on the recurring instances of microagression that reinforce the self-regulatory “docile bodies” first acknowledged by Foucault. Billy-Ray Belcourt argues that the body is prone to a “critical receptivity,” which makes it susceptible to being “undone and displaced by others.” He poetically describes this haunting: “A body can only jar so many spirits and trauma before it glitches, leaks, and splits at the seams.” For Ashon Crawley, one of these seams that leak is the dream: “Dreams…produce and contain and hallucinate grief, grief that is too much to carry alone,” and it is through song that this emotional “resonance overflows and exceeds the boundaries and borders of containment.” Edgar Calel envisions these emotional connections as roots and branches that can tap into violent histories. In Calel’s conception of the body, these tendrils also connect us to the proximal abstract spaces where ancestral knowledge is available and can interact with the history of places. But while branches reach out, roots are designed to draw in and absorb, as described in Belcourt’s analysis of Tanya Lukin-Linklater’s performance video In Memorium, where Indigenous bodies “absorb colonial trauma and respond without making recourse to the skin’s ability to deflate affect.”

These three conceptions of the receptive body straddling the here-and-now and a liminal space (the otherwise, the elsewhere, the abstract)[1] are poetically teased out in the essays below:

[1] Terms used by Crawley, Belourt, and Calel respectively.

The body remembers when the world broke open

Billy-Ray Belcourt, Driftpile Cree Nation 

I have said this twice before, but I will say it again:[1] I am trying to figure out how to be in this world without wanting it, and perhaps this is what it is to be Indigenous. To be Indigenous...

I Dream Feeling, Otherwise

Ashon Crawley, Charlottesville, United States 

I woke up crying. It was a January morning, the 23rd, and I missed someone. Some family member, or some acquaintance, or some stranger — it matters not — died in the dream, disrupting my slumber. I woke up, tears...

I drag you with me: ancestry and contemporary practice

Edgar Calel, Guatemala City, Guatemala 
Raphael Daibert, SĂŁo Paulo, Brazil 

I drag you with me: ancestry and contemporary practice (a conversation between Raphael Daibert and Edgar Calel) Edgar Calel came to SĂŁo Paulo for a three-month residency that extended to six. Through a partnership between the Latin American artist residency...

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