Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left A History of the Impossible MALIK GAINES Articulates the role black theatricality played in the radical energy of the Sixties Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left illustrates the black political ideas that radicalized the artistic endeavors of musicians, playwrights, and actors beginning in the 1960s. These ideas paved the way for imaginative models for social transformation through performance. Using the notion of excess— its transgression, multiplicity, and ambivalence— Malik Gaines considers how performances of that era circulated a black political discourse capable of unsettling commonplace understandings of race, gender, and sexuality. Following the transnational route forged by W.E.B. Du Bois, Josephine Baker, and other modern political actors, from the United States to West Africa, Europe and back, this book considers how artists negotiated at once the local, national, and diasporic frames through which race has been represented. Looking broadly at performances found in music, theater, film, and everyday life—from American singer and pianist Nina Simone, Ghanaian playwrights Efua Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo, Afro-German actor Günther Kaufmann, to California-based performer Sylvester—Gaines explores how shared signs of racial legacy and resistance politics are articulated with regional distinction. Bringing the lens forward through contemporary art performance at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Gaines connects the idea of sixties radicality to today’s interest in that history, explores the aspects of those politics that are lost in translation, and highlights the black expressive strategies that have maintained potent energy. Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left articulates the role black theatricality played in the radical energy of the Sixties, following the evolution of black identity politics to reveal blackness’s ability to transform contemporary social conditions.
Bl ac k Performanc e on the out sk irt s of the lef t A History of tHe imp ossib le
“As for many in my generation, the political, counter-cultural, and intellectual histories of the 60s have been a source of inspiration for me, but also frustration, as we wonder what became of the transformative possibility promised by those powerful movements. We find that the period’s radical energies were not always organized around progress narratives that would deliver the future from the past, but rather brilliantly, they used the difficulty of black representation to offer ambivalent, contradictory theories about a subject’s place in history, and the politics of that place. In this work, I trace the ways these radical energies continue to circulate through the politics of representation.” —Malik Gaines
MALIK GAINES is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a member of the performance group My Barbarian. AUGUST 2017 248 PAGES • 24 black & white illustrations PAPER • 978-1-4798-0430-6 • $28.00S (£22.99) CLOTH • 978-1-4798-3703-8 • $89.00X (£74.00) In the Sexual Cultures series AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES • PERFORMANCE STUDIES
SPR I NG 2017 • NY U PRESS