Beyond The Archives of Pain: Diasporic Memories of Ecstasy and the Black Feminine Divine in Beyoncé’s "6 Inch"
Copyright (c) 2022 Giuseppe Polise
Questo lavoro è fornito con la licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.
Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016) is an audio-visual album that intertwines the protagonist’s personal experience of betrayal with a history of black female abused sexuality. Journeying across Louisiana’s gothic landscapes, from its haunting bayous, swamps and plantations to the vibrant city of New Orleans, Lemonade exhumes the unwritten memories of black women’s pain from the oblivion of the official records of the Ante- and Post-bellum US South. It re-figures the South away from notions of white nostalgia and turns it into a counter-hegemonic space where memories of erotic expression survive the repeated forms of black female unfreedom and sexual exploitation. As several moments of Afro-diasporic rituality are projected on screen, Beyoncé accesses black diasporic mythology as a submerged epistemological archive for representations of ecstasy that disrupt the Western and Christian flesh/spirit dichotomy. Focusing on the “6 Inch” video, this article will look into the strategic ways its visuals entice readings of Beyoncé’s body as the reiteration throughout modernity of the normalized commodification of the hyper-sexualized mulatto women—the “irresistible” Victorian quadroons and octoroons. At the same time, the ritual dimension that saturates the video also discloses a complication of that history of abuse by establishing genealogies between mulatto women and mythical manifestations of black female erotics. Channeling Oshún and Pomba Gira—love goddesses from the West-African and Afro-Brazilian pantheons—Beyoncé’s body is deified and made into the recipient of black diasporic counter-memories that illuminate the triangular connection between flesh, erotic motion and ecstatic pleasure. Closing on a flames-engulfed brothel before which Beyoncé and other mistresses stand, the video’s Southern scenarios factually historicize black women’s experiences of deep-seated misogynoir. At the same time, they also become sites of black feminist theorizing through which Beyoncé reconfigures her relationship to the past by embracing and manifesting an unashamed black female erotic agency in the present.