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Black Soundscapes White Stages

, 192 pages

19 halftones

September 2013


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Black Soundscapes White Stages

The Meaning of Francophone Sound in the Black Atlantic

Black Soundscapes White Stages explores the role of sound in understanding the African Diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic, from the City of Light to the islands of the French Antilles. From the writings of European travelers in the seventeenth century to short-wave radio transmissions in the early twentieth century, Edwin C. Hill Jr. uses music, folk song, film, and poetry to listen for the tragic cri nègre.

Building a conceptualization of black Atlantic sound inspired by Frantz Fanon's pioneering work on colonial speech and desire, Hill contends that sound constitutes a terrain of contestation, both violent and pleasurable, where colonial and anti-colonial ideas about race and gender are critically imagined, inscribed, explored, and resisted. In the process, this book explores the dreams and realizations of black diasporic mobility and separation as represented by some of its most powerful soundtexts and cultural practitioners, and it poses questions about their legacies for us today.

In the process, thee dreams and realities of Black Atlantic mobility and separation as represented by some of its most powerful soundtexts and cultural practitioners, such as the poetry of Léon-Gontran Damas—a founder of the Négritude movement—and Josephine Baker’s performance in the 1935 film Princesse Tam Tam. As the first in Johns Hopkins’s new series on the African Diaspora, this book offers new insight into the legacies of these exceptional artists and their global influence.

Edwin C. Hill Jr. is an assistant professor of French and comparative literature at the University of Southern California.

"Hill breaks new ground in the field of Francophone studies with his nuanced intersection of film studies, musicology, and literary criticism. His analyses of the musical form the biguine and the poetry of Léon-Gontran Damas, probably the least studied of the major Negritude poets, are especially important. An engaging, enlightening read."

" Black Soundscapes White Stages is an original project that successfully invites readers to lend their ears to the sounds of the Francophone Black Atlantic. It approaches its subject matter from a wide, multidisciplinary perspective... Hill's focus on sound brings up exciting questions on Negritude voices, on the place of colonial female performers, and a variety of other transatlantic "soundtexts." It is a safe bet that many scholars will listen in turn."

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