Identity, Resistance, and Body: Reading The Cancer Journals as “Manifesto”

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Shirin Akter


Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist author, had to undergo a mastectomy of her right breast in 1978. Her trauma of pre and post-surgery period, experience of pain, observation on the medical discrimination, and protest against prosthetic breast got a vivid expression in The Cancer Journals (1980). Instead of reflecting on the loss of her body part, she used the cancer experience as a tool not only to voice identities and differences but also to defy patriarchal politics, capitalist agenda, and medical discrimination. Lorde's construction of subjectivity and identity in The Cancer Journals is a complete break from the traditional autobiographical strategies. Her performance as a resisting subjectivity in the text coincides with Sidonie Smith's concept of the experiential politics of autobiographical manifesto's subject. Focusing on these aspects, the present paper exhibits how Audre Lorde creates a discourse of the body in her political struggle for raising women's voice in the body politic. Moreover, it argues that in its exposition of identity and resistance —as a language of the body—The Cancer Journals is an autobiographical manifesto.

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