Theorizing the Disfigured Body: Mutilation, Amputation, and Disability Culture in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

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Africa World Press, Inc. & The Red Sea Press, Inc.




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Theorizing the Disfigured Body: Mutilation, Amputation, and Disability Culture in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone explores the mutilated body as signifier of possession, control and domination. It examines the interconnections between the wound or mark on the body and the identity of the individual and affirms that wounding is naming and attests to its power to influence the position of the individual in the world and his destiny. This book uses in addition to war memoirs and journalistic narratives published between 1991 and 2001, personal testimonies of victims published in the annual report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone in 2004 to foreground the author’s argument of the body as signifier. It explores the branding and amputation of war victims as both a war strategy and construct of the body that signifies possession, identification, and maiming and argues that the amputated or mutilated body is constructed around ambivalence: as text/signifier of domination and control, but also of resistance, rejection and re-invention. The book interrogates, contests, and re-works the notion of dependency and dysfunction associated with the amputated body by re-thinking the mutilated or amputated body as site where the narrative of oppression and marginalization are contested and reversed. It hypothesizes that the amputated body, through agency, informed by irony and paradox, denies, and subverts its stereotypes. It explores possibilities of reclaiming the body and of engaging both physical challenges and psychological trauma. It amplifies the theory of complex embodiment and argues that the amputated body should be ‘read’ both in terms of its impairment as well as its potentials. Through this theory, the disfigured body is neither constructed entirely from its place in the environment. Rather, it acknowledges the social construction while also embracing the physical impairment.