Grief Dolls and God Dolls: Allison Benis White's SMALL PORCELAIN HEAD

Claudia Cortese

A child gives her doll a spirit, a personality, a story. She constructs a narrative for her doll, filling an inanimate object with life. This imaginative process is one we often associate with girlhood. A constellation of images orbits the word “doll”: wooden dollhouses and porcelain girls in lace dresses and dolls that pee and dolls that cry and dolls that girls push in strollers. However, dolls—which are believed to be the first toys—have not always been so narrowly gendered, so limited to childhood play. Haitian Voodoo dolls are said to embody the spirit of a living person, and ancient Egyptians buried their dead with dolls, believing they would assist the deceased in the afterlife.


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