BY Sachini Perera
There is a new war breaking out as I type. Watching it being live tweeted is surreal but it’s also a familiar feeling of disembodiment.
What does it mean to feel disembodied? On one hand, there’s the feeling of not being in one’s body. The internet and the increased platformization of our lives – including as a response to Covid-19 – have removed us from our bodies at a time when we have also become hyper aware and hyper focused on our bodies whether it is being on alert for symptoms or constantly measuring the recommended distance between bodies or feeling the effects of long covid. Having to be in these extremes of disembodiment and hyper-embodiment – and the in-between such as the metaverse – can be exhausting, maybe even permanently changing our relationship with our bodies.
This kind of disembodiment can create opportunities for adventures and experiments too. I was recently revisiting Nadika Nadja’s essay ‘The smartphone freed me’: a journey of dating as a transwoman where she shares how she created her online self on Second Life: “For me, it was not just a game. It became an existence, a life. On SL I could craft a woman me. I could give her all my aspirations and hopes, fears and loves.” While at the same time we also have spaces like the metaverse, a way to presumably be more in our bodies in the virtual world, that is bringing along all the violence, harassment and heteronormativity our bodies are subjected to on ground.
I’ve been thinking about another kind of disembodiment too, one which trans and queer people, women and girls, people oppressed on the basis of class, caste, race, ethnicity, etc. know too well. The kind of disembodiment that happens when all freedoms, autonomy, agency and control over your own body are stripped from you, and your body is not your own anymore. Such disembodiment is often sanctioned, legitimized and implemented by the state as well as other institutions such as families, schools, universities, organized religion, law enforcement, courts, hospitals, workplaces, etc. that are emboldened by the state’s complicity. Examples are endless but the one most on my mind is the image of Muskaan Khan raising her fist, demanding the right to wear what she wants to school and university amidst the hijab row that is unfolding in India. However, battles to reclaim our bodies are won too, and the image of young women in green scarves raising fists in celebration in Colombia come to mind, with the recent legal victory that decriminalises abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
In our first edition of Reflections from Our Countries in 2022, RESURJ members reflect on various kinds of disembodiment. Michi Moragas from Paraguay discusses how women’s bodies are seen as expendable and collateral in and by the Narco State. Sibusiso Malunga from Zambia talks about how the bodies and safety of human rights defenders are constantly under threat and danger. Laura Valenciano Arrieta from Costa Rica reflects on sexual violence against women and which bodies/incidents are considered worthy of the entire country’s attention. Oriana Lopez Uribe from Mexico and Laura from Costa Rica have a conversation about recent developments in Latin America around decriminalization of abortion and the rising demands for bodily autonomy through voluntary access to reproductive medical services. Our accomplice Akosita Sokidi from Fiji talks about the impact of Covid-19 related disembodiment activists are experiencing through exclusion from advocacy spaces, focusing on the experience of going to the 2021 UN Climate Summit (COP26) for the first time and observing that “grassroots communities that are frontliners of climate justice issues happening on the ground” were not there to represent themselves.
We invite you to dive into these Reflections, react to them, and to support our work in reclaiming our bodies and realizing sexual and reproductive justice.