Sarah Baartman

In class, we have made brief references to Sarah Baartman – the “Hottentot Venus” – and McClintock speaks of her in Imperial Leather as well. I think that Sarah Baartman and the examination she was subjected to in imperial England and France is a prime example of both scientific racism – as Westerners spent a great deal studying and observing her body/genitalia – as well as commodity racism.  So I searched the Internet to find a video that I watched in a previous class about the Hottentot Venus. Instead of finding the film I was looking for, I actually discovered that there is a French feature film about her life called “Venus Noire.” The film was made in 2010 and appeared at the New York Film Festival. I perused through some of the clips and – even though they are in French – they show how Sarah was viewed as a commodity and portrayed as an erotic, animalistic type of entertainment, as well as a scientific anomaly. I attached the trailer, 3 short clips, as well as a link to the entire feature film (which is in French). So enjoy these clips, and if you speak French and have a spare couple of hours, I think the whole film would be interesting to watch.

In addition to these clips on Sarah Baartman, I also stumbled upon a clip featuring Stuart Hall.  In this clip, Hall discusses how race acts as a signifier in society.  He very succintly relates race to one of the first discussions we had in class about symbols, signifiers, and language. I think that Hall gives a very succinct and clear illustration of how race is a signifier.

Mallory Thayer


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