CONGO CANCER: EVE ENSLER’S RECONSTRUCTION OF THE SELF THROUGH AUTO/PATHOGRAPHY
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American playwright and activist Eve Ensler has explained how, due to her father’s abuse, she felt exiled from her own body from a young age (Greene 2001; Ensler 2006). Her theatrical praxis, including the internationally acclaimed Vagina Monologues (1998), provides a means for her to re-inhabit her organism and re-examine her victimization. In 2010, while campaigning against gender violence in the Congo, Ensler was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She recorded her traumatic experience in In the Body of the World (2013), which opens with a reminder about her early “exile” and closes with an encouragement to rise against abuse. Throughout its 53 chapters, Ensler reflects that cancer threw her “through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis”, re-connecting her with her physical self and with the world. Situated within feminist epistemology and with a methodology based on close reading, this paper analyzes Ensler’s memoir as a gendered journey of reconstruction of the self. It argues that, through an exercise of re-membering that is reflected in the structure and in her explicit focus on female bodily experience, Ensler creates a relational narrative of uterine cancer that includes not only her own story, but also those of other women who have undergone victimization.
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