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Addressing the other womanTextual correspondences in feminist art and writing$
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Kimberly Lamm

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526121264

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526121264.001.0001

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Letters from an imaginary enemy, Angela Davis

Letters from an imaginary enemy, Angela Davis

(p.72) 2 Letters from an imaginary enemy, Angela Davis
Addressing the other woman

Kimberly Lamm

Manchester University Press

Chapter 2 analyses Angela Davis’s written reflections on her transformation into the ‘imaginary enemy’ of the US nation-state. A spectacle in the most consequential sense, the iconic images of Davis telegraphed across American visual culture in the early 1970s, many of which highlight her Afro, demonstrate that the black female body is perceived to be a malleable ground upon which fears and fantasies of racial and sexual difference can take visual form. Beginning with the FBI’s ‘Wanted’ poster of her, this chapter tracks the images of Davis that circulated through the American media and came close to inscribing the accusation of her criminality into legal truth and commonly held belief. I argue that Davis’s ordeal demonstrates that visual culture serves as a site where the pathologies of racism and sexism compound each other and force black women into positions of subordination, and that it therefore offers a powerful context for understanding the stakes of Piper’s textual interventions into the iconicity of the black female body. Reading a range of Davis’s writings (her autobiography, her letters to George Jackson, her own defence statement) in relation to Piper’s artwork, this chapter shows that Davis also deployed language to contest the legacies of ‘ungendering’ and undo the visual logics that have determined black women’s visibility..

Keywords:   Imaginary Enemy, Icon, Afro, Autobiographical Writings, Criminality, Letters to George Jackson, Defense Statement

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