Josephine Baker, Performance, and the Traumatic Real

Kalaidjian, Walter
November 2007
S&F Online;Fall2007/Spring2008, Vol. 6 Issue 1/2, p6
Academic Journal
This article explores how readings of dancer Josephine Baker's cultural status in the 1920s underscore but also tend to limit her stylized performance of the African American body as a modern, primitivist fetish within the registers of colonial fantasy. For Harlem Renaissance artists such as Gwendolyn Bennett, Baker's mimicry of primitivist codes, mixed with her mastery of Parisian cosmopolitanism, was an empowering role model in her own moment. Baker's performance would lead her to become a utopian symbol of progressive celebrity for diverse audiences throughout Europe, South America and eventually in the U.S., especially in the 1950s, when Baker was a civil rights pioneer.


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