Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Venus in the Dark

Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, 2nd Edition

By Janell Hobson


226 pages

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In this second edition of the remarkable, and now classic, cultural history of black women’s beauty, Venus in the Dark, Janell Hobson explores the enduring figure of the "Hottentot Venus" and the history of critical and artistic responses to her by black women in contemporary photography, film, literature, music, and dance.

In 1810, Sara Baartman was taken from South Africa to Europe, where she was put on display at circuses, salons, museums, and universities as the "Hottentot Venus." The subsequent legacy of representations of black women’s sexuality—from Josephine Baker to Serena Williams to hip-hop and dancehall videos—refer back to her iconic image. Via a new preface, Hobson argues for the continuing influence of Baartman’s legacy, as her image still reverberates through the contemporary marketization of black women’s bodies, from popular music and pornography to advertising. A brand new chapter explores how historical echoes from previous eras map onto highly visible bodies in the twenty-first century. It analyzes fetishistic spectacles of the black "booty," with particular emphasis on the role of Beyoncé Knowles in the popularization of the "bootylicious" body, and the counter-aesthetic the singer has gone on to advance for black women’s bodies and beauty politics.

By studying the imagery of the "Hottentot Venus," from the nineteenth century to now, readers are invited to confront the racial and sexual objectification and embodied resistance that make up a significant part of black women’s experience.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Foreword; Acknowledgments; 1. Re-Presenting the Black Female Body: An Introduction; 2. Venus and the Hottentot: The Emergence of an Icon; 3. The Hottentot Venus Revisited: the Politics of Reclamation; 4. The "Batty" Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body; 5. Mirror, Mirror: Framing the Black Female Body For Still and Motion Pictures; 6. Remnants of Venus: Evolutions of the Booytlicious Body; Epilogue; Notes; Bibliography; Index

About the Author

Janell Hobson is an associate professor of women's studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / African American
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies