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Palgrave Macmillan

Understanding Blackness through Performance

Contemporary Arts and the Representation of Identity

ISBN 9781137325075
Publication Date October 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

How does the performance of blackness reframe issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality? Resistance and redeployment strategies inform the world of black theatre, performance, and theory, generating a multiplicity of positions from an intersectional perspective. Here, the contributors look into representational practices in film, music, literature, sculpture, video, vaudeville, fashion, and theatre and explore how they have fleshed out political struggles, while recognizing that they have sometimes maintained the mechanisms of violence against blacks. These practices have opened up new territories that require scrutiny today.

Anne Crémieux is Associate Professor of American Studies at the Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre, France. Xavier Lemoine is Associate Professor of American Studies at the Université de Nantes, France. Jean-Paul Rocchi is Professor of American Studies at the Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, France.

Introduction. Black Beings, Black Embodyings: Notes on Contemporary Artistic Performances and their Cultural Interpretations; Jean-Paul Rocchi, Anne Crémieux, and Xavier Lemoine
1. Each Taking Risk, Performing Self: Theorizing (Dis)Narratives; Myron Beasley
2. Transformative Womanist Rhetorical Strategies: Contextualizing Discourse and the Performance of Black Bodies of Desire; Toniesha L. Taylor
3. 'Is Anybody Walkin'?': the Black Body on the Runway as a Performance of the Politics of Desire; Gayle Baldwin
4. Transgressive (Re)presentations: Black Women, Vaudeville and the Politics of Performance in Early Trans-Atlantic Theatre; Zakiya R. Adair
5. Kara Walker's War on Racism: Mining (Mis)Representations of Blackness; Vanina Géré
6. Between Mumblecore and Post-Black Aesthetics: Barry Jenkins's Medicine for Melancholy; Simon Dickel
7. From Book to Film: Desire in Precious (Lee Daniels, 2009), adapted from Push by Sapphire (1995); Anne Crémieux
8. Black Queer Studies, Freedom and Other Human Possibilities; Rinaldo Walcott
9. About Face, or, What Is This 'Back' in B(l)ack Popular Culture?: From Venus Hottentot to Video Hottie; Mae G. Henderson
10. Margin Me: Intentional Marginality in the Queered Borderlands of Hiphop; Stephany Spaulding
11. Sculpting Black Queer Bodies and Desires: The Case of Richmond Barthé; James Smalls
12. I Am Not a Race Man: Racial Uplift and the Post-Black Aesthetic in Percival Everett's I Am Not Sidney Poitier; Kristin Leigh Moriah
13. Embodying Hybridity: Anna Deavere Smith's Identity Cross-Overs; Xavier Lemoine

Zakiya R. Adair, University of Missouri, USA
Gayle Baldwin, University of North Dakota, USA
Myron M. Beasley, Bates College, USA
Simon Dickel, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
Vanina Géré, University Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, France
Mae G. Henderson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Kristin Leigh Moriah, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA
James Smalls, University of Maryland, USA
Stephany Spaulding, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, USA
Toniesha L. Taylor, Prairie View A & M University, USA
Rinaldo Walcott, University of Toronto, Canada


"I applaud the authors for theorizing black performance and embodiment away from the centrality of the written texts, specifically traditional literary texts. It is highly significant in that it moves the discipline forward in both its approach and structure." - Myron M. Beasley, PhD, Associate Professor, American Cultural Studies and African American Studies, Bates College, USA
"This provocative collection brings together a creative community of scholars, artists, artist-scholars, and more to probe, reconfigure, and challenge the underlying presuppositions of blackness premised on fixedness and the erasure of agency. Always critical and reflective, it offers theoretical considerations, matched by ample historical and contemporary evidence, of the implications of what is involved in performing an identity, especially in cases where one is already enmeshed, whether socially or corporeally, in it. Art, in this case, goes beyond the world of fetish and voyeur into the realm of interrelatedness. A must-read not only for those of us interested in African Diasporic studies and the formation of identity but also for anyone interested in the relationship of performance to the poetics of what it means 'to be' as a form of 'not to be', paradoxically, through the zone of nonbeing." - Lewis R. Gordon, University of Connecticut, USA; Europhilosophy Visiting Professor, Toulouse University, France; and Nelson Mandela Professor, Rhodes University, South Africa
"Understanding Blackness through Performance illuminates the field of black performance scholarship by focusing an international lens on ethnic cultural phenonmena." Anita Gonzales, Theatre Study
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