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Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern
by Jayna Brown
Babylon Girls is a groundbreaking cultural history of the African American women who performed in variety shows—chorus lines, burlesque revues, cabaret acts, and the like—between 1890 and 1945. Through a consideration of the gestures, costuming, vocal techniques, and stagecraft developed by African American singers and dancers, Jayna Brown explains how these women shaped t ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published September 19th 2008 by Duke University Press Books
(first published August 29th 2008)
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Although the focus of Jayna Brown's Babylon Girls is on the shaping of the modern by Black women performers, as it is so titled, Brown leaves it impossible to not think critically about the many psychosocial aspects that she uses as foundation for her work. Brown does more than simply provide us with a historical context in which to learn about the development and progression of African American women performers in the United States and Europe. She gifts us with a cathartic evaluation of an audi ...more
Great read, an exploration of transnationalism, race, and gender as it pertains to black women performers who carved out spaces on domestic and international stages. They used these spaces to resist oppression and racism while subverting stereotypes such as Mammy and Jezebel.
Dense (as you would expect from a dissertation), but chock full of interesting information very useful to my own research on the lives and work of 20th century chorus girls. Although I wouldn't claim to have an educated argument against her, her (at the most general level) post-modern analysis is not always my cup of tea. Worth the purchase, nonetheless!