A probing analysis of Black women's attempts to pursue justice for sexual violence victims within often hostile social and legal systems
In Bodies in the Middle: Black Women, Sexual Violence, and Complex Imaginings of Justice, Maya Hislop examines the lack of place that Black women experience, specifically when they are victims of sexual violence. Hislop uses both historical and literary analysis to explore how women, in the face of indifference and often hostility, have sought to redefine justice for themselves. Hislop develops a framework she calls "Afro-pessimistic justice." Afro-pessimism begins from the belief that Black life in America, and in turn the American justice system, is constrained within a framework of anti-Blackness meant to enforce white supremacy. Beginning from this baseline, Hislop centers the experience of Black women while also acknowledging that formal legal justice is illusive, perhaps impossible, within systems built on anti-Black violence. Inspired by the work of Black studies luminaries like Orlando Patterson, Sylvia Wynter, and Fred Moten, Hislop asks what justice can look like in the absence of total victory and how Black women have attempted to define alternative paths to a more just future. Caught in the double bind because of their racial and gender identities, Black women are especially vulnerable within a web of social and legal systems that too often discount their humanity and diminish their legal standing.
Maya Hislop is assistant professor of English at California Polytechnic State University. Her work has appeared in Law and Literature and Women's Studies.