Feminist Review

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 1–19 | Cite as

questions of presence

  • Gail LewisEmail author


This article considers some of the ways in which ‘the black woman’ as both representation and embodied, sentient being is rendered visible and invisible, and to link these to the multiple and competing ways in which she is ‘present’. The issues are engaged through three distinct but overlapping conceptualisations of ‘presence’. ‘Presence’ as conceived (and highly contested) in performance studies; ‘presence’ as conceived and worked with in psychoanalysis; and ‘presence’ as decolonising political praxis among Indigenous communities. I use these conceptualisations of presence to consider the various ways in which the black woman as figure and as embodied/sentient subject has been made present/absent in different discursive registers. I also explore what is foreclosed and how this is itself linked to legacies of colonial ‘worlding’. I end with consideration of alternative modes of black women’s presence and how this offers a resource for new modes of sociality.


black women presence colonial violence de-gendering psychosocial triangular space 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Association of Psychosocial Studies Annual Lecture in December 2016. My heartfelt thanks to the Association for inviting me and to the lively and engaged audience from whom I learnt much and whose energy sustained me. I hope I do justice to you here. Special thanks to my beloved friend and inspiration, Avtar Brah. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their close reading and helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© The Feminist Review Collective 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept of Psychosocial StudiesBirkbeck CollegeLondonUK

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