Juxtaposing André Levinson’s French colonial reading of Baker’s performance with e. e. cummings’s American postcolonial reading, the chapter argues that while both acknowledge the powerful phallicism of Baker’s performances, each reading nonetheless functions to spectralize and dismember the subject. If Levinson’s reading functions to disembody and de-materialize the subject, then cummings’s reading functions to fragment or dismember her. Together, they read Baker through the lenses of the French colonial and American postcolonial imaginary. The chapter seeks to disrupt these discursive frames of reading, re-locating Baker’s dance performance within the context of diaspora. Baker’s dancing, it argues, was both an identity-constituting performance and a signifying system capable of a politics of resistance, manifesting the potential to unsettle the (post)colonial gaze and, thereby, to disrupt the dominant and hegemonic discourse. The chapter concludes that because Baker’s performances inevitably risk reproducing gender and race stereotypes, they possess the power and potential to be simultaneously transgressive and recuperative.
Keywords: Mae G. Henderson, Josephine Baker, André Levinson, e. e. cummings, dance, diaspora, cultural identity, colonialism, postcolonialism, performance, politics of resistance, disembodiment, stereotypes, spectralization
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