We often take our bodies for granted, as if they were self-­evident and as if to think or talk about them was a matter of obvious description. But there is nothing “natural” about the ways we perceive our bodies, and there are many ways to approach the term. What a body means in relation to other bodies and to the world around it has taken shape and shifted meaning through the languages of science, philosophy, politics, and history. Nowhere is this more graphically illustrated than in the ways we understand race, sex, and gender, terms that determine who we are and where we rank in the social structures of the modern world. In African American studies, the term “body” takes on a particular resonance as it is used to draw attention to the visceral nature of racism as well as the physical forms of African Americans’ resilience and resistance.

This essay may be found on page 29 of the printed volume.

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