The Female Body

From Pashmina Murthy at Invisible Culture:

An examination of female infanticide across nearly two centuries can only locate and fix the infant in her absence. It is that disembodiment that is being archived, not the infant herself. To read the archive in relation to female infanticide is also to read the female body as archive. The body now documents for its readers signs of violence, apathy, misogyny, and greed. But it also denies full disclosure by locating its own “truth” elsewhere except in its own invisible body. Because the bodies of these infants were rarely, if ever, recovered, the kind of violence that was wreaked upon them might never be known. An infant that dies from being neglected embodies proof that it was never wanted, but the mutilated body of a new-born that was strangled or beaten reveals marks of a different cruelty . How might we account for these varying forms of violence? By structuring the death of the infant as a non-birth, the very conception of loss resists signification. Each death enacts the mythic origin of infanticide; it becomes a representation and a re-presentation of that originary loss, thereby entering the ritual performance of a scripted play and distancing itself from the violence and horror of the act. The ‘nothingness’ of the female infant, echoed in the absence of her body and the absence of affect surrounding her murder, can only be undone in the archives through an insistence on her displacement from a colonial accounting. A fantasy of detection and containment is operational here, which counters her tripartite absence on the physical, affective, and discursive plane. The absent female infant is written into presence as she gets signified through rumour, suspicion, and statistics, her textuality preserved and contained with the archival records and, indeed, in the archive itself – buried in the arkheia.

Read the whole thing here

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