The Josephine Baker Critical Reader

Selected Writings on the Entertainer and Activist


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About the Book

Star of stage and screen, cultural ambassador, civil rights and political activist—Josephine Baker was defined by the various public roles that made her 50-year career an exemplar of postmodern identity. Her legacy continues to influence modern culture more than 40 years after her death. This new collection of essays interprets Baker’s life in the context of modernism, feminism, race, gender and sexuality. The contributors focus on various aspects of her life and career, including her performances and public reception, civil rights efforts, the architecture of her unbuilt house, and her modern-day “afterlife.”

About the Author(s)

Mae G. Henderson is a professor emerita of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of innumerable articles, essays and books on African American and feminist literary criticism and theory, pedagogy, theatre, popular culture, travel, Afro–diaspora, and black cultural studies.

Charlene B. Regester is an associate professor in the Department of African & African American Studies and affiliate faculty with the global cinema minor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Mae G. Henderson and Charlene B. Regester
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 380
Bibliographic Info: 58 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6581-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2948-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: “Josephine, woman of a hundred faces”

Mae G. Henderson and Charlene B. Regester 1

Part I. Reception and Perception in the Transatlantic Imaginary 29

To Stockholm, with Love: The Critical Reception of Josephine Baker,

1927–1935 (Ylva Habel) 30

“Of la Baker, I Am a Disciple”: The Diva Politics of Reception

(Jeanne Scheper) 48

Josephine Baker and La Revue Nègre: From Ethnography to Performance (Mae G. Henderson) 67

The Construction of an Image and the Deconstruction of a Star—Josephine Baker Racialized, Sexualized, and Politicized in the ­African-American Press, the Mainstream Press, and FBI Files

(Charlene B. Regester) 88

Part II. Modernism, Primitivism, and Embodied Performance 127

An Intelligence of the Body: Disruptive Parody through Dance in the Early Performances of Josephine Baker (Michael Borshuk) 128

Embodied Fictions, Melancholy Migrations: Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Celebrity (Terri Francis) 141

Colonial, Postcolonial, and Diasporic Readings of Josephine Baker as Dancer and Performance Artist (Mae G. Henderson) 157

Part III. Filmic Fictions and Narrative Desire 169

Uncanny Performances in Colonial Narratives: Josephine Baker in Princess Tam Tam (Elizabeth Coffman) 170

Josephine Baker and Pierre Batcheff in La Sirène des tropiques

(Phil Powrie and Éric Rebillard) 185

Nationalizing and Segregating Performance: Josephine Baker and Stardom in Zouzou (Scott Balcerzak) 198

Part IV. The Architectural Imaginary 217

Historic Architecture: Adolf Loos in Paris—Radical Residences for Josephine Baker and Tristan Tzara (Thomas S. Hines ) 218

A House for Josephine Baker (Karen Burns) 226

The Josephine Baker House: For Loos’s Pleasure (Farès ­el-Dahdah) 243

Subversive Figurations of Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, and Josephine Baker: A Speculative Reading (Stephen Atkinson) 253

Part V. Staging Civil Rights and Human Rights Globally 267

Josephine Baker, Racial Protest, and the Cold War (Mary L. Dudziak) 268

Adoptive Affinities: Josephine Baker’s Humanist International (Jonathan P. Eburne) 292

Josephine Baker and Utopian Visions of Black Paris (Bennetta ­Jules-Rosette) 302

Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe”: Radical Motherhood in the South

of France (Matthew Pratt Guterl) 318

Works Cited 335

About the Contributors 349

Index 351

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Collection contains 18 historical and critical essays on entertainer and activist Josephine Baker’s life, career, and impact in the context of modernism, feminism, race, gender, and sexuality”—ProtoView