“Usable Paradoxical Space”: Negotiating Captivity and the Gaze in Michelle Mohabeer’s film Blu in You


To this special issue of Canada and Beyond on “Caribbean Canadian” cultural production, this article offers a reappraisal of spectacular violence in the legacy of Sarah Baartman, as explored by Guyanese Canadian filmmaker Michelle Mohabeer. Mohabeer’s film Blu in You confronts the racist, heteronormative violences that underpin Western modernity, in particular objectification of the gaze over racialized Black and queer women, in the process situating queer Caribbean Canadian women as Baartman’s resistant inheritors. This paper seeks strategies for addressing the limitations imposed on queer critical race critique by inherited and flawed systems of knowledge. In particular, it explores the paradoxes that arise in addressing the legacies of Sarah Baartman using visual art. I use Mohabeer’s film and its references to Baartman and captivity, routed through feminist critical race critique, to propose ways of imagining liberatory epistemologies within compromised contexts, the critical inhabitation of delimited positions, and the exercise of transformative agency within restricted zones.
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