Some Sunday thoughts on effigies and bodies

After completing my first blog post with relative ease, I found myself slipping into a state of acute stress regarding my impending second post. I, much like Jenna explains in this post, was worried that whatever I had to say wasn’t going to be significant enough, or worth a reader’s time. The content in this class seems TOO significant for me to put into words in a single blog post. Yet, I’m going to keep trying.

So, there’s my disclaimer: I can’t solve the world’s problems on the blog, as much as I may want to. Now that that’s out of the way and I can write without feeling like I need to do something revolutionary, Roach’s definition of effigies and his explorations of the implications of dead bodies in propinquity (hopefully, I used that term right) to the living have all been circling around my brain. These thoughts were only heightened with watching When The Levees Broke in class.

First off, I’ll admit that back when Hurricane Katrina hit, I was paying attention, but only the amount of attention that you could expect an eight year old far away from the Gulf Coast to have. I’ve uncomfortably realized that I don’t even think I knew that people died. Seeing the footage of the corpses piled up around New Orleans for days really shook me to my core.

Here’s where I’ll take my personal reactions and apply them to Roach: I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of dead bodies as being effigies. Roach defines effigy as similar to performance because “it fills by means of surrogation a vacancy created by the absence of an original” (36). Roach talks about how corpses can act as “performed effigies” and I agree. More importantly, I think that this may be why we (as in a generalization of Western living culture) are often uncomfortable with the presence of dead bodies.

People have varying reactions to the presence of dead bodies, which we started to discuss in class. Overall though, I think we can safely say that the majority of people have at least a tiny bit of discomfort with a dead body. There are many reasons for that, but I think this partly has to do with the fact that there is an inevitability in this effigy. Coming to terms with the presence of dead bodies means coming to terms with the fact that you too will one day be an effigy, or a surrogate of yourself. I think that freaks people out (and I don’t think I’m immune to those thoughts). Dead bodies remind people that they are in the midst of the threefold process that Roach describes as “living, dying, and being dead” (37). While watching When The Levees Broke, I was really fixated on how the corpses “didn’t look like people anymore” and I think that personal reaction speaks to these ideas that Roach is talking about.

Before this post becomes too existential, I think I’ll conclude it. Perhaps, be on the lookout for part 2 of this post, because I’ve far from exhausted my thinking on this!

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