This essay traces an aesthetic genealogy of feminist breathing since the 1970s. Deviating from declension narratives that locate in that decade the end of breathing as a means of feminist socialization and politicization, this essay argues that indigenous and black feminisms have continuously relied on respiratory rituals as tactics or strategies for living through the foreclosure of political presents and futures. Case studies on Linda Hogan’s ceremonial poetry and Toni Cade Bambara’s fiction on healing expose the tensions that have animated a feminist breathing premised on the management of vulnerabilities: first, the enmeshment of vitality and risk and, second, the destabilization of the wholeness or wellness afforded by rituals. As felt theory or embodied critique, feminist breathing ultimately reveals an impulse to repair the conditions from which it emerges.
Jean-Thomas Tremblay is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University. Their research has appeared in Criticism, Post45, Women and Performance, and New Review of Film and Television Studies. They are completing Breathing Aesthetics, a book-length study of aesthetic responses to the contemporary crisis in breathing.
Jean-Thomas Tremblay; Feminist Breathing. differences 1 December 2019; 30 (3): 92–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-7974016
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