Sarah Ahmed’s project in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004) encourages us to think through what emotions do rather than what they are. In line with this thinking, I think through not what the wound is, but what it does —its resonances and affects— specifically on, in and through the body and as a signifier to replicate political ideology.
Ahmed defining of the wound as a “bruised or cut skin surface” (27) serves as a quick and dirty strategy to qualify the wound with a ‘body’, and to not place, the wound as a transcendental conceptual object.1 Indeed, through the book Ahmed demonstrates the relationality of objects and subjects and the various orientations a subject can take toward the object (5). “The wound functions as a trace of where the surface of another entity (however imaginary) has impressed upon the body, an impression that is felt and seen as the violence of negation” (27).
Ahmed asserts that the act of forgetting (an injury, trauma) would be a repetition of the violence inflicted and a reinstatement of the wound’s pain. “To forget would be to repeat the forgetting that is already implicated in the fetishization of the wound” (33). Conversely, a fetishization of the wound can appear as the wound becoming an identity of the wounded (body). The wound takes over and becomes the identity (32) and a proof of that identity (59). “Subaltern subjects (Spivak’s term) become invested in the wound, such that the wound comes to stand for identity itself” (32). This promotes a potential for the wound to become a static object as a source of representation. As representation the wound loses its heterogeneity and particular history of pain. If we think of the wound as a sign, could it be the symbolic that drives narratives of pain and violence across a mass of subjects that are turned into a collective body? Ahmed realizes that a critique of wound culture must be specific and localized as to not flatten specificity.
- That would be reiterating the exact discourse that Susan Sontag rallies against in Illness as Metaphor (1978) ↩