Cultural Politics of Blackface, NeMLA, April 3-6, 2014, Harrisburg, PA; deadline: Sept. 30

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Northeast Modern Language Association

45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Panel: Cultural Politics of Blackface

In an open letter last year award-winning playwright Bruce Norris drew a line in the sand regarding the use of Blackface in theater and called for the boycott of any institution that still used the practice. In explaining his decision to revoke the rights of the Deutsches Theater to stage his play "Clybourne Park," he noted that while he generally refrains from "meddl[ing] in the cultural politics of other countries" he now found the need to adopt a "zero-tolerance position" on the use of made-up white actors to portray Black characters.

Norris's words echoed beyond the theater world, coming as they did at a a time when Blackface scandals continue to make headlines in the United States and around the world, be it in the form of "Numero" magazine's "African Queen" editorial featuring a white model in dark make-up, Shantrelle Lewis's planned Kickstarter-funded documentary on the Dutch Zwarte Piet tradition, or Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind attendance at a Purim party in Blackface. These controversies expose uncomfortable truths about the allegedly "post-racial" world in which we exist and prove the need for continued scholarly engagement with both present and past incarnations of Blackface and race performance. To that end this panel seeks to bring together diverse scholarly perspectives from across modern languages fields on the complicated history, use, and reception of Blackface and race performance.

Possible topics include:

-histories and uses of Blackface across media, time, and region
-public and political scandals involving Blackface
-race, advertising, and fashion
-minstrelsy, race performance and self-exoticization (Josephine Baker, Jubilee SIngers, Vaudeville, etc.)
-creative or artistic reappropriations of Blackface (Spike Lee's "Bamboozled")
-Blackface in humor (Vaudeville origins, Billy Crystal's Oscar skit, Saturday Night Live, etc.)
-Blackface in cultural, religious, and holiday traditions (Three Kings, Zwarte Piet, etc.)

If interested please send a brief abstract and biographical paragraph to Maureen Gallagher, University of Massachusetts Amherst (

45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Host: Susquehanna University
Deadline: Sept. 30, 2013

The 2014 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. This capitol city set on the Susquehanna River is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, historical sites, the National Civil War museum, and nearby Amish Country, antique shops and Hershey Park. NeMLA has arranged low hotel rates of $104-$124. The full Call for Papers can be found at:

Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
Email address
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)