Queer Transgenerational Haunting in Black Girl Dangerous

'Blood memories - A Queer’s Transgenerational Search for a Scar' by Mónica Teresa Ortiz


Read the full excerpt here (Black Girl Dangerous)


'Blood memories' by Mónica Teresa Ortiz is a story about how the transgenerational haunting of past trauma intrudes into a sexual encounter in the present. In the story, eerie traces of the murder of the narrator's grandfather flash on to the body of a new lover. Ortiz uses these intrusions, and the layering of time and space that they force open, to introduce themes from recent neuroscience experiments on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance (epigenetics is the term used to refer to how the environment can affect genes).

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The experiments Ortiz refers to were first reported in Nature Neuroscience in 2013, in a paper entitled 'Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations' by Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler.

Dias and Ressler found that mice conditioned to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom, passed this fear and aversion on to two generations of their offspring.

Dias and Ressler conclude that "Our findings provide a framework for addressing how environmental information may be inherited transgenerationally at behavioral, neuroanatomical and epigenetic levels."

In the an interview with the BBC, Professor Marcus Pembrey (University College London), said the findings were "highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders" and provided "compelling evidence" that a form of memory could be passed between generations. Pembrey added that "It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously."

This interest in intergenerational haunting can also be found in literature (for example in the Junot Diaz novel The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao) and in the social sciences, particularly with regard to post-colonial feminist scholarship such as Grace Cho's work 'Haunting the Korean Diaspora' which explores 'the repressed history of emotional and physical violence between the United States and Korea' following Korean partition and the diaspora.

Intergenerational haunting has yet to studied in the context of health care relationships.