Biography 45.3, Table of Contents
Existence is Resistance: A Reflection on Beverly “Bev” Ditsie’s Fashion Performativity
Khaya Mchunu and Busisiwe Memela
Through a discussion of the notions of “existence is resistance” and fashion performativity, this essay journeys with Beverly “Bev” Ditsie through her iconic quare fashions from the 1990s to today. Despite the significant roles black women played in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, only a handful of them have garnered significant attention. Against this backdrop, we examine the contributions of Beverly “Bev” Ditsie’s quare fashion to the history of South Africa’s LGBTQ+ rights movement. We employ biographical research and photo elicitation to uncover Ditsie’s identity as a quare, black woman in 1990s South Africa. We situate Ditsie’s quare activism within the history of South Africa’s LGBTQ+ rights movement through a contextual focus on her dress in the documentary Simon & I. We argue that Ditsie’s fashion choices show a confluence of her identities as a black lesbian woman. This study not only enriches local histories in liberation and performance theory, but also presents queer narratives as they may be reflected and reimagined in contemporary fashions (such as Afropunk) in the pursuit of black quare expression.
Memory Books as Family Historiography: How a Rural Ugandan Family Wrote Their Experience of HIV
In Uganda, thousands of memory books have been written since the late 1990s by parents, mostly underprivileged widows, living with HIV for their children about their families. This article first addresses the background of memory books and then analyzes three memory books by one rural Ugandan mother in collaboration with her children. This article is based on six field visits I made between 2008 and 2016, mostly to Tororo, Uganda. I was shown over forty memory books, and interviewed writers, their family members, NGO staff, and community group leaders. Through a close textual analysis of the three memory books, I argue that the memory book represents a new form of family historiography that allows less literate people to speak and be heard.
Biographical Writing as Ethnography: The Journey of a Malagasy Worker in Beirut
Sleiman El Hajj
Building on the premise that ethnography can function as a form of biographical inquiry, this study revisits key episodes experienced by Meramo, a Malagasy domestic worker in Lebanon, alongside an interpretive commentary addressing the plight of this significant yet sidelined population, currently among the worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The nuances in Meramo’s narrative reveal the untold turpitudes of migrant life in Beirut, as well as the intersection between the narratives of migrant women and Lebanese women in a setting that regulates the existence of both. The article’s retelling of Meramo’s story, based on a number of interviews with the subject, also contributes to the sparse biographical representations of migrant household labor in Lebanon’s creative writing canon.
“But You’re So Touchable”: The Auto/biographical Narratives of Sujatha Gidla and Yashica Dutt
With Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India (2017) and Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir (2019), two auto/biographical narratives by modern, educated, immigrant women, Sujatha Gidla and Yashica Dutt emerge as new voices of Dalit writing in English. This article analyzes the narrative strategies employed by Gidla and Dutt as they tell of their individual lives intertwined with accounts of their families and the histories of their underprivileged communities. It argues that the identities performed in the texts meet the “horizon of expectations” of contemporary readers and redirect Dalit discourse.
A Portrait of Desire: On Jacques-Alain Miller’s Life of Lacan and the Anti-biographical Imperative
This essay examines Jacques-Alain Miller’s avoidance and refashioning of various conventions of biography in Life of Lacan in his attempt to adequately represent not a “Great Man” but a “man of desire”—the embodiment of a psychoanalytic ethics of desire. In doing so, comparisons are made to other biographies and memoirs such as Élisabeth Roudinesco’s Jacques Lacan, Catherine Millot’s Life with Lacan, and Sibylle Lacan’s A Father: Puzzle. A discussion of Lacan’s own resistance to biography and the mixed regard in which he held the biographies he read is followed by an explanation of the anti-biographical imperative established by Lacan and adopted by Miller as an unrealizable ideal of the psychoanalytic doctrine’s transmission without reference to the person of Lacan. The third section is a reading of Miller’s experiment in psychoanalytic life writing as an effort to represent, without resolving, the enigma of desire that Lacan is said to exemplify.
Slavery and Class in the American South: A Generation of Slave Narrative Testimony, 1840–1865, by William L. Andrews
Reviewed by Joycelyn K. Moody
Le “Pacte” de Philippe Lejeune ou l’autobiographie en théorie: Édition critique et commentaire, by Carole Allamand
Reviewed by Zoltan Varga
American Women Activists and Autobiography: Rhetorical Lives, by Heather Ostman
Reviewed by Ana Belén Martínez García