Unmaking Race, Remaking Soul

Transformative Aesthetics and the Practice of Freedom

Edited by Christa Davis Acampora & Angela L. Cotten

Subjects: Aesthetics, African American Studies, Feminist Philosophy, American Studies
Paperback : 9780791471623, 315 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791471616, 315 pages, September 2007

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Foreword: “Tragedy Fatigue” and “Aesthetic Agency”
Joy James


On Making and Remaking: An Introduction
Christa Davis Acampora

I. Resisting Imagination

1. Writing the Xicanista: Ana Castillo and the Articulation of Chicana Feminist Aesthetics
Ritch Calvin

2. Everyday Revolutions, Shifting Power, and Feminine Genius in Julia Alvarez’s Fiction
Kelly Oliver

3. Authorizing Desire: Erotic Poetics and the Aisthesis of Freedom in Morrison and Shange
Christa Davis Acampora

II. Body Agonistes

4. MeShell Ndegéocello: Musical Articulations of Black Feminism
Martha Mockus

5. Portraits of the Past, Imagined Now: Reading the Work of Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson
Kimberly Lamm

6. The Coloniality of Embodiment: Coco Fusco’s Postcolonial Genealogies and Semiotic Agonistics
Eduardo Mendieta

III. Changing The Subject

7. Pueblo Sculptor Roxanne Swentzell: Forming a Wise, Generous, and Beautiful “I Am”
Ruth Porritt

8. The Syncretism of Native American, Latin American, and African American Women’s Art: Visual Expressions of Feminism, the Environment, Spirituality, and Identity
Phoebe Farris

9. Dalit Women’s Literature: A Sense of the Struggle
Nandita Gupta

IV. Home Is Where The Art Is: Shaping Space And Place

10. The Role of “Place” in New Zealand Maori Songs of Lament
Ailsa L. Smith

11. Theater Near Us: Librarians, Culture, and Space in the Harlem Renaissance
Katherine Wilson

12. Into the Sacred Circle, Out of the  Melting Pot: Re/Locations and Homecomings
in Native Women’s Theater
Jaye T. Darby

Works Cited
About the Contributors

Explores the theme of aesthetic agency and its potential for social and political progress.


Unmaking Race, Remaking Soul explores innovative approaches to analyzing cultural productions through which women of color have challenged and undermined social and political forces that work to oppress them. Emphasizing art-making practices that emerge out of and reflect concrete lived experience, leading contributors to the fields of contemporary psychoanalytic literary analysis, Latin American studies, feminist theory, Native Women's studies, Africana studies, philosophy, and art history examine the relationship between the aesthetic and the political.

The focus of the book is on the idea of aesthetic agency through which one develops different modes of expression and creative practices that facilitate personal and social transformation. Aesthetic agency is liberating in a broad sense—it not only frees our creative capacities but also expands our capacity for joy and our abilities to know, to judge, and to act. Artists considered include Nadema Agard, Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, Daystar/Rosalie Jones, Coco Fusco, Diane Glancy, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Toni Morrison, MeShell Ndegéocello, Marcie Rendon, Ntozake Shange, Lorna Simpson, Roxanne Swentzell, Regina Vater, Kay Walking Stick, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Christa Davis Acampora is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. Angela L. Cotten is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. They are the coeditors of Cultural Sites of Critical Insight: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and African American and Native American Women's Writings, also published by SUNY Press.


"This collection makes an intriguing and important contribution to understanding the experiences and cultural productions of women of color." — Bilinda Straight, editor of Women on the Verge of Home