What is Body Politics?
Body Politics refers to how something outside of our control, namely our physical being—the color of our skin, the shape of our body—can impact the quality of our daily existence. That is the body piece. The politics piece of it relates to what happens when external forces impose, pre-suppose, or characterize who we are. If there is synergy between our body image and the external political forces that impact us, chances are, there is little internal conflict. If, on the other hand, there is some dissonance between what we feel and what we experience, life can present challenges and complexities that are important to grapple with. The Body Politics project features stories that address the dynamics between the self the world, navigating the wide range of this spectrum.
Now as a storytelling project, Body Politics is offered every semester as a weekend workshop. The workshop consists of two sessions – typically a Saturday and Sunday – designed to explore storytelling techniques and other types of creative writing. The concise curriculum that supports our work during the sessions includes fundamental texts by women of color artists and intellectuals from different backgrounds. These materials also help us build our intersectional framework to work individually and as a group. Our project is grounded and guided by principles of social justice, inclusion, empowerment, and mutual respect. As participants explore the possibilities of storytelling, the power of their voices, and the force of their creativity, they also build a stronger community of peers based on mutual support and understanding. The stories created during the workshop are gathered in a booklet we call “Body Politics Collection of Stories”. Several editions of “Body Politics Collection of Stories” are available in print for the community.
Body Politics storytelling weekend workshop is free and open to all self-identified women and nonbinary persons of color from the Five College and larger community.
How to participate?
We invite students from UMass and the Five College community to experience Body Politics and the power of storytelling through a weekend workshop. The workshop is designed for students to draw on their experiences as women and non-binary people of color. Participants will explore their commonalities, differences, multiple identities, and cultural backgrounds through their stories. Additionally, workshop participants will dive into dynamic and interactive storytelling activities and work on using their own voices, (re)gaining self-confidence, and re-affirming the power of storytelling in creating community and mutual support. By the end of the workshop, participants are expected to submit at least one written storytelling piece which will be featured in the Body Politics Anthology (booklet and electronic formats). Students may choose to attend the workshop for their personal growth and fulfillment or consider taking it for class/homework credit upon approval from their instructors. In that case, students must comply with the minimum requirements (read below).
All participants are expected to read the selected materials in preparation for the workshop.
1. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, Audre Lorde (in Sister Outsider, 2007)
2. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, Audre Lorde (in Sister Outsider, 2007)
3. “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers”, Gloria Anzaldúa (in This Bridge Called My Back, 2015)
4. Selected short pieces from previous Body Politics Anthologies:
- “Mellow Yellow” by Qingjian Shi (2007).
- “His Hands” by Arlene Pimentel (2008)
- “Cultural Schizophrenia” by Birabwa N. Kajubi “B” (2009)
- “Papi” by Joselyn Denise Yrayta (2010)
- “Self-Acceptance Is a Revolution” by Maru Gonzalez (2011)
- “Biracial// American-Born Mestiza” by Olivia Espinoza (2015)
Priority deadline for applications is Friday, October 6, 2017. The workshop will take place on October 14 - 15, from 9:30 AM to 5 PM at UMass Amherst.
If you have questions or wish to learn more about how you can participate in Body Politics, email us for more information. We accept applications throughout summer and at the very beginning of each semester.
History of Body Politics
Body Politics in digital storytelling
In the years 2014-16, BP participants created original stories and used digital techniques to transform them into digital stories. We have presented these digital stories on campus as part of our programming.
Body Politics as a theatre performance
From 2004 until 2013, Body Politics was a year-long project that culminated in a public theatre performance. Participants met for weekly workshops during the fall semester, engaging in discussions, team building and writing exercises. In the spring semester, a selection of these writings was transformed into a script that the participants practiced and performed publicly.
Here is what some past participants have said about Body Politics workshop:
“It felt good to talk and listen to my story and the stories of others. They all explore different topics and we relate in so many ways, even though we all come from different places”
“I really appreciated this weekend. It was filled with so much joy. it helped me challenge my thinking and grow as a writer”
“As a senior, participating in BP was the best thing I have done during my college years. Thank you for creating this amazing space!”
“This was exactly what I needed and I feel so empowered, revitalized, and supported.”
“Thank you so much for giving us this time and space to explore each other and ourselves. This was a beautiful, powerful, and empowering experience for me and, I suspect, for all of us.”
“I really appreciated all the time allotted to actually writing and sharing that writing with each other… From food to curriculum to holding the Kleenex box/range of emotions that come along with it, that work is deeply appreciated and truly life-changing.”