Scenes of Objection: The Black Body in Performance (Deadline Sept. 30, 2012)

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NeMLA 44th Annual Convention - March 21-24, 2013

44th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 21-24, 2013
Boston, Massachusetts
Host Institution: Tufts University

This panel will examine how African American performers have responded to the history of objectification of the black body in performance. In Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America, Saidiya Hartman notes how during the antebellum and minstrel eras, various sites of black performance (from the auction block to the popular stage) illustrate how "suffering [is] transformed into wholesome pleasures." She argues that these performances represent an essentially pained expression of the body's possibilities. Keeping in mind that much of early African American performance was borne out of terror and threats of violence (as in forced singing and dancing on the auction block and plantations), the panel will explore how contemporary African American performance has transformed these scenes of subjection into scenes of "objection" or an expression of an empowered black subjectivity.

Questions of interest are: How is the black body represented in performance? How are issues of identity, representation, and difference expressed through black performance? How can theories on the body and performance studies help us to understand the significance of these performative acts? Performance Studies has expanded our conceptions of what constitutes performance, so this panel is an effort to participate in that discussion and examine the implications of these shifts for how we study drama and performance in the context of literature. Therefore, this panel seeks papers that examine various kinds of performance from traditional forms (the dramatic stage), to non-traditional ones (protests, musical expression, etc.) including those that blur the line between traditional and non-traditional performance. Send abstracts of 300 words or less to

Deadline: September 30, 2012
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