Politics of Oppression

By Farris, Anelise | Extrapolation, July 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Politics of Oppression


Farris, Anelise, Extrapolation


Politics of Oppression. Sami Schalk. Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women's Speculative Fiction. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2018. 192 pp. ISBN 978-0-82-237088-0. $23.95 pbk.

Reviewed by Anelise Farris

Speculative fiction is filled with non-normative and marginalized bodies; however, disability studies has been slow to enter the scholarly conversation regarding such texts. In our concern with race, gender, and sexuality, too often we occlude the ever-present subject of disability in our analyses. Sami Schalk is out to change that in Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women's Speculative Fiction, illustrating how disability is not an isolated factor in speculative fiction, but rather an essential, intersectional part of identity studies. In her view, a disability-studies lens allows us to understand more fully the politics of bodyminds-the meeting of the physical and the mental-as we push toward a more inclusive future. Schalk's central idea is that speculative fiction is imperative in this regard as it invites us to question norms, imagine revolution, and enact change.

As there is much work to be done in the merging of disability studies and literature of the fantastic, Schalk wisely limits her scope to representations of disability by black authors. In doing so, she demonstrates how scholars of black feminist theory rarely observe how disability theory is an integral part of understanding how oppressed identities function. Examining disability in works that appear to be exclusively about race and gender, for instance, uncovers aspects of marginalized identity that might be overlooked-especially as they relate to the bodymind entity.

Although bodymind is a familiar concept in disability-studies scholarship, Schalk's choice to implement the term (dis)ability is unique. She explains: "While other scholars use dis/ability or ability/disability to similar effect, I believe the parenthetical curve as opposed to the backslash better visually suggests the shifting, contentious, and contextual boundaries between disability and ability" (6). While I like this concept in theory, it perpetuates what many disability activists say is an attempt to create a euphemism for a term (disability) that they have no shame in claiming. That said, in her introduction, Schalk effectively shows how these two terms can be applied to a text in her analysis of the film The Girl with All the Gifts (2016). …

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