Black Performance on the Outskirts of the LeftA History of the Impossible

Black Performance on the Outskirts of the LeftA History of the Impossible

Malik Gaines

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9781479837038

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left uses the notion of excess—its transgression, multiplicity, and ambivalence—to consider performances of the sixties that circulated a black political discourse capable of unsettling standard understandings of race, gender, and sexuality. Following a route from the United States to West Africa, Europe, and back, these performances staged imaginative subjectivities that could not be contained by disciplinary or national boundaries. Looking broadly at performances found in music, theater, film, and everyday life, the performers considered brought Marxist political strains into contact with black expressive strategies, restaging ideas of the subject that are proposed by each tradition. Attention to their work helps illuminate the role black theatricality played in what is understood as the radical energy of the sixties, and further reveals the abilities of blackness to transform social conditions. Following a transnational route forged by W.E.B. Du Bois and other modern political actors, this book considers the ways artists negotiated at once the local, national, and diasporic frames through which race has been represented. In the works of American singer and pianist Nina Simone, Ghanaian playwrights Efua Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo, Afro-German actor Günther Kaufmann, and California-based performer Sylvester, shared signs of racial legacy and resistance politics are articulated with regional specificity. Further, each artist explores the ways blackness responds to gender and sexuality as it proliferates images of difference. They bring important attention to the imbrication of these conditions.