2nd Edition

Venus in the Dark Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture

By Janell Hobson Copyright 2018
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    Author Foreword to 2nd edition 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 Epilogue


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

    "A much-needed second edition of a classic text in black feminist criticism, cultural studies, and critical race studies.  This is a timely intervention that helps understand, then connect, past and present discourses of the black female body." Ayo A. Coly, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies, Dartmouth College, USA

    "Black women’s bodies as social, political, and cultural currency, still stand at the intersections of discussions of race, class, gender, beauty, and womanism. Visual culture is forever transformed by their framed, yet fierce and immutable, presence. Janell Hobson’s re-engaged conversation about the ‘Hottentot Venus’ and her imprint on the representations of identity, blackness and performance, joins a chorus of other voices—scholars, critics, and artists—who call forth that power that lies within these audacious attempts to trouble the line of an arbitrary, yet real, social context concerning sensuality and propriety." Carol E. Henderson, Professor of English and Black American Studies, University of Delaware, USA