Bala Saho (Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma) speaks with Naminata Diabate (Associate Professor, Cornell University) about her book, Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa, published by Duke University Press, in 2020.
What provocations are posed by a naked woman’s body? What does it mean to those who see her? And what does it signify for the woman herself, in the moment and in memory? In this book, Naminata Diabate recovers the deep historical roots for women’s embodied agency in political action across the African continent. She examines instances of women’s insurgent disrobing in 23 African countries from 1920-2018 and considers the multivalence of ‘genital cursing’ as a means of protest. Diabate’s intervention incorporates visual arts, narrative films and documentaries, alongside newspaper coverage and literary fiction in many languages, to reconstruct the significance of women’s embodied agency and the threat that nakedness posed to established authorities.