What if depression, in the Americas at least, could be traced to histories of colonialism, genocide, slavery, exclusion, and everyday segregation and isolation that haunt all of our lives, rather than to biochemical imbalances? This article seeks alternatives to the medical model found in most depression memoirs by considering how the epistemological and methodological struggles faced by a scholar of the African diaspora confronted by the absent archive of slavery are relevant to discussions of political depression. Combining scholarly investigation and personal memoir, Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother exemplifies feminism's affective turn not only by bringing personal narrative into scholarship, but by seeking reparation for the past in the affective dynamics of cultural memory rather than in legal reform or state recognition. Stubbornly refusing to find solace in an African past before slavery, though, Hartman provides a model of emotional reparation in which feelings of loss and alienation persist. Her work suggests the relevance of political depression to both the ordinary life of racism and to what gets called clinical depression.

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Feminist Theory

Cvetkovich, A. (2012). Depression is ordinary: Public feelings and Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother. Feminist Theory, 13(2), 131–146. doi:10.1177/1464700112442641