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Sensual ExcessQueer Femininity and Brown Jouissance$
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Amber Jamilla Musser

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479807031

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479807031.001.0001

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Performing Witness

Performing Witness

Voice, Interiority, and Diaspora

(p.95) 4 Performing Witness
Sensual Excess

Amber Jamilla Musser

NYU Press

This chapter analyzes Carrie Mae Weems’s photographic installation From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995–1996) as a performance of witnessing in which Weems restores voice to the archive of portraits that she reprints. While Weems’s installation has been read as trafficking in woundedness, this chapter argues that thinking photography as a technology of reproduction allows us to see Weems’s work as enlarging concepts of diaspora and mothering while also insisting on the opacity of interiority. This chapter positions this form of the maternal in conversation with Audre Lorde’s expansive concept of diaspora. Here, the concept of brown jouissance allows us to reimagine the work that is going on in this piece of art. It enables us to theorize witnessing and photography as fleshy enactments of spiritual resistance and to re-imagine possibilities of black gendering.

Keywords:   Carrie Mae Weems, brown jouissance, woundedness, diaspora, voice, witnessing, photography, Audre Lorde, spirituality

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