Lecture: “The Unkindest cut of All”: Coloniality, Performance and Gender in the Courtroom and Beyond" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh
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Lecture: “The Unkindest cut of All”: Coloniality, Performance and Gender in the Courtroom and Beyond"

October 25, 2017 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Speaker/Participants: 
Chloé Georás, University of Puerto Rico

Sponsored by the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, the Gender, Sexuality & Women's Studies Program, the Humanities Center, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Cultural Studies Program, and Professor John Beverley. 

On June 23, 1993, in Manassas, Virginia, after years of physical and verbal abuse that, according to testimony, culminated in another episode of marital rape, Lorena Bobbit took an eight-inch red-handled steak knife from her kitchen and cut off the penis of her husband and ex-Marine, John Wayne Bobbitt. She drove off with the penis and later discarded it on a grassy lot, where it was recovered by a police rescue mission and succesfully reattached to her husband. John Wayne was tried and acquitted of marital rape charges. 

Facing a possible sentence of up to twenty years for “malicious wounding”, Lorena claimed not to remember the act and deployed the insanity and Battered wife syndrome defenses in response to the prosecution's argument that she had done it for revenge. Lorena was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent only a few days in a mental hospital before being released.  

Through her transgressive "cut felt around the world", Lorena Bobbit not only amputated the organ that symbolized her misery but achieved instant fame. The globalized media machineries disseminated the infamous Bobbit saga, variously appropriated along the lines of entrenched cultural anxieties. 

In this lecture I explore how different theoretical approaches to the narrative, performative and cultural aspects of trials, particularly show trials, can illuminate the sexual and racial politics that underpinned the public's fascination with this case. Firstly, I briefly set the stage by addressing the location of Latinos in the trans-American social imaginary, profoundly marked by the "coloniality of power". On the second part, I inquire how narrative and performative analyses can fruitfully recast the study of show trials to better appreciate their cultural and political implications. In the third and final section I analyze the stories put forward by both the defense and the prosecution and how they reenacted highly problematic racial and sexual tropes characteristic of the coloniality of power.

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