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“Object Lesson(s)”

Author(s): Womack, Autumn

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Abstract: This article reconstructs up an impromptu dance performed by Lavinia Baker, a survivor of mob violence and star of an anti-lynching performance revue, and reads it as the occasion for rethinking the performative dimensions of a seemingly familiar spectacle: lynching. As opposed to the familiar scene of the black corpse captured and circulated in photographs, the author argues that Lavinia's 1899 dance and the liveness of her performance – that is, its excess, disruptions, and improvisation – is instantiation of racial violence that strains against the putative framing of mob violence as a finite event that is amenable to documentation, capture, or narrativization. By pivoting a discussion of lynching on Lavinia Baker’s protean performance, this essay not only challenges the shape and structure of nineteenth-century anti-black terror, but also demands that we (re) turn to a deceptively simple question that animates Scenes of Subjection: what does racial violence look like?
Publication Date: 2017
Citation: Womack, Autumn M. "Object Lesson (s)." Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 27, no. 1 (2017): 59-66.
DOI: doi:10.1080/0740770X.2017.1282123
Pages: 59 - 66
Language: English
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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