Poetics of the Flesh
A Labyrinth of Incarnations
This chapter analyzes the interlacing of visible identities and the changing materiality of flesh, through a close reading of Frantz Fanon’s work. Fanon dramatizes how ideas about race affect his own body. He describes being wounded by the looks and words of others and the puzzling metamorphoses that those interactions produced in him. Social ideas and fantasies fell upon his body and transformed his flesh. Fanon begins his account by pointing to Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions of the body as composed through its interactions with the world. But instead of the harmonious encounters Merleau-Ponty described, he feels other forces impinge upon his body—violently. Reading Fanon, this chapter argues that these forces should be considered in a poetics of flesh. Engaging Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire, the chapter also points toward the possibility of envisioning carnal relations beyond the limits of colonial representation.