San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - Thumbnail

Democracy and the Black woman on the poster. A Black feminist critique

Noémi Michel, University of Geneva
, -

Online event

Add to Calendar

Meeting number: 1379038054
Password: N4Vk7Yes

Noémi Michel's talk focuses on the "Black woman on the poster", a subject who disproportionally appears on the audio-visual self-representations of democratic institutions in Switzerland and Europe, but who persistently lacks voice within the same institutions. Amongst other subaltern subjects, Black women have been gradually included in the various venues of Western democratic discussion throughout the last century. Nonetheless, they are intensely affected by forms of silencing, forgetting, tokenising or neglect. They face what Michel proposes to call an unsustainable inclusion. Such a situation suggests that differentiated embodiment affects one’s political voice. Yet the links between embodiment and voice remain overlooked or un-systematised within democratic theory. Adopting a critical political theory approach with a focus on diasporic Black feminist thought, Michel's talk asks: what happens to the meaning and implications of democratic inclusion when we take seriously the embodied dimension of political voice?  

From a Black feminist perspective, the afterlives of colonialism and slavery are very relevant for understanding the unsustainable inclusion faced by those who occupy the subject-position of the "Black woman on the poster". Michel explores those afterlives by putting in dialogue past and present scenes of voice deprivation within Black feminist interventions. She shows how the gendered-racialised (re)production of bodies not only affects one's audibility within a given democratic community, but also communities’ responsiveness to one's claims.  Theorising the politics of embodied voice offers a space for reimagining the conditions and possibilities of democratic life under historical and structural inequalities of gender, race and class. In other words, a Black feminist critique of democracy not only sheds light on complex and often neglected processes that lead to unsustainable inclusion, but also forces us to rethink strategies for amplifying voices and opening ears.








Banner and illustration: Excerpt of Suzanne Lacy's "We Are Here" exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © Chris Allan / Shutterstock.com