This first of a two-part Special Issue on Black Performance samples diverse subjects and methodologies, ranging from theater and dance to art installation, music, literature, film, digital images, and social interaction. Edited by Stephanie Leigh Batiste, this issue positions Black performance as a site for solidifying the prescience and critical sharpness of Black creativity in shaping knowledge and sensibilities. In the ways that the contributors featured study performance, we see the past brought to bear to redefine what we know about history and Black histories in particular. In each essay, the author’s mode of analysis asks us to imagine how our present moment is or might be remade by the performances studied and by their performers’ exhortations towards proliferating ways of understanding blackness.
Ananya Jahanara Kabir and Francesca Negro introduce a lost archival folder that details a radical play written in Portuguese. This essay substantiates a hemispheric history of choreographic narrative in the lives of iconic dancers — Brazilian Solano Trinidade and American Alvin Ailey.
Sasha Ann Panaram analyzes poetry and post-modern performance in M. NourbeSe Philip’s textual and performative re-memory of the middle passage’s Zong massacre. The absented bodies of enslaved, murdered Africans become memorialized in writing, breath, and embodied art installation.
Christina Knight evaluates Black performances’ visual resonances in Arthur Jafa’s jazz-inflected film strategies in Love is the Message The Message is Death. She considers viewership, visual representation, and Black social performance in historically and digitally viral images.
Isaiah Matthew Wooden riffs on the historical sampling of memory in the performance practices of artist Derrick Adams’ ostensibly fine arts repertoire. Looping the terms repertoire, representing, representation, repetition (and, perhaps, reputation) in the hip hop idea of “reppin’,” Wooden’s deejay format spins beats of memory through Adams remixing of history.
DJ Lynée Denise presents a listener’s archeology of the song “Rock Steady” to sound our way through a musical legacy of soul. Denise moves in unruly genealogies against the grief of our loss of Aretha Franklin, a sonic shaper of Black feeling.
Redeployments of Black performances resound visually and sonically in these performers’ and scholars’ recombination of memory, feeling, and time. Artist Delita Martin’s cover “New Beginnings” places a mask, perhaps of ritual or theatrical mediation, in the company of a non-linear exchange of intergenerational looking and encounter. Our scholars follow suit. Their approaches mix a critical engagement with the past with systems of knowing and feeling blackness in creative critical conversations with the artists.
For a limited time, the introduction and DJ Lynée Denise’s “The Afterlife of Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady:” A Case Study in DJ Scholarship” are free to download and read. Check back later on for free access to another article in this issue. Keep an eye out for our upcoming final issue for 2019, Black Performance 2.
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Our 2020 volume, which is also our 50th anniversary volume, is slated to include…
- At the Limits of Desire: Black Radical Pleasure
- Black Girls and Girlhood I
- What Was Black Studies?
- And more…
The following is the projected content for our 2021 volume…
- Black Privacy (read the CFP here)
- Caribbean Global Movements
- Black Girls and Girlhood II
- And more…