Un-fixing Baker: Against a Criticism of Stasis
Johnston Center for Integrative Studies
Much of the biographical and critical work on Josephine Baker seeks to recuperate Baker from discursive and visual layers of racialized colonial vestments and proposes to repair her story by putting Baker in the role of agent. This locks Baker into a counter-narrative that minimizes the complexity and context of her performances; arguably, these methods lose sight of the aesthetic and political implications of a dancing body that incorporated and put into motion wildly disparate elements and influences. The methodological problems posed by the nature of Baker's work present an opportunity to develop a critical approach that resists fixity in favor of mobility. Methodologies that sustain discursive mobility will equip our critical work to engage with the aesthetic production of the dancing body. In the case of Baker and perhaps more widely, we might draw upon emerging methods that shift critical foci from solid arguments to mobile analyses.
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