Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 / Edition 1

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Overview


In Bodies in Dissent Daphne A. Brooks argues that from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, black transatlantic activists, actors, singers, and other entertainers frequently transformed the alienating conditions of social and political marginalization into modes of self-actualization through performance. Brooks considers the work of African American, Anglo, and racially ambiguous performers in a range of popular entertainment, including racial melodrama, spectacular theatre, moving panorama exhibitions, Pan-Africanist musicals, Victorian magic shows, religious and secular song, spiritualism, and dance. She describes how these entertainers experimented with different ways of presenting their bodies in public—through dress, movement, and theatrical technologies—to defamiliarize the spectacle of “blackness” in the transatlantic imaginary.

Brooks pieces together reviews, letters, playbills, fiction, and biography in order to reconstruct not only the contexts of African American performance but also the reception of the stagings of “bodily insurgency” which she examines. Throughout the book, she juxtaposes unlikely texts and entertainers in order to illuminate the complicated transatlantic cultural landscape in which black performers intervened. She places Adah Isaacs Menken, a star of spectacular theatre, next to Sojourner Truth, showing how both used similar strategies of physical gesture to complicate one-dimensional notions of race and gender. She also considers Henry Box Brown’s public re-enactments of his escape from slavery, the Pan-Africanist discourse of Bert Williams’s and George Walker’s musical In Dahomey (1902–04), and the relationship between gender politics, performance, and New Negro activism in the fiction of the novelist and playwright Pauline Hopkins and the postbellum stage work of the cakewalk dancer and choreographer Aida Overton Walker. Highlighting the integral connections between performance and the construction of racial identities, Brooks provides a nuanced understanding of the vitality, complexity, and influence of black performance in the United States and throughout the black Atlantic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Daphne A. Brooks has developed a truly wonderful way of matching up odd couples, such as Ada Isaacs Menken and Sojourner Truth, and finding the kinship marks of ‘overlapping diasporas’ in their improbable but richly informative union.”—Joseph Roach, author of Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance

“Daphne A. Brooks is a brilliant, creative, and original thinker. Because Brooks so adeptly crosses the disciplinary boundaries of fields as diverse as performance studies, nineteenth-century American literature, and black studies, Bodies in Dissent is an extraordinary model of interdisciplinary scholarship. Brooks’s original archival work coupled with her engagement with recent scholarship in cultural studies and studies of the black Atlantic provides us with a beautifully written exploration and theory of black performance practices.”—Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of If You Can’t Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822337225
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 488
  • Sales rank: 938,556
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Daphne A. Brooks is Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

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Table of Contents

1 Our bodies, our/selves : racial phantasmagoria and cultural struggle 14
2 The escape artist : Henry Box Brown, black abolitionist performance, and moving panoramas of slavery 66
3 "The deeds done in my body" : performance, black(ened) women, and Adah Isaacs Menken in the racial imaginary 131
4 Alien/nation : re-imagining the black body (politic) in Williams and Walker's In Dahomey 207
5 Divas and diasporic consciousness : song, dance, and new Negro womanhood in the veil 281
Epilogue : theatre, black women, and change 343
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