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Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
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Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

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Josephine Baker and La Revue Nègre

Josephine Baker and La Revue Nègre

Chapter:
(p.176) 12 Josephine Baker and La Revue Nègre
Source:
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora
Author(s):

Mae G. Henderson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.003.0013

Baker’s parodic stage performances enacted scenarios in which audience and performer participated, the former compelled by a powerful voyeurism, the latter by an equally powerful exhibitionism, creating a dialectical performance reenacting the obsessive need of the colonizer to “look” and the obsessive desire of the colonized to be “looked at.” Locating Baker within a tradition of ethnographic display, the chapter compares the staging of the Baker body with that of the African pavilions at the world fairs and colonial expositions. However, as sites of the French civilizing mission, Baker’s performance of métissage, like the mingling of architectural representation, transgressed the Manichean logic of racial difference that distinguished primitivism from modernism, savagery from civilization, African from European. Baker’s “performance” of the primitive, the chapter concludes, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to sustain an argument of racial difference when the “performance” of primitivism threatens constantly to deconstruct the “essence” of the primitive.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Josephine Baker, La Revue Negre, métissage, French Colonial Exposition, performance, essence, primitive, voyeurism, ethnographic display, modernism, exhibitionism world’s fair, race and racial difference

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