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Black Soundscapes White Stages

The Meaning of Francophone Sound in the Black Atlantic

Edwin C. Hill Jr.

Publication Year: 2013

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. The 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 of books about the African Diaspora, this book offers new insight into the legacies of these exceptional artists and their global influence.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Callaloo African Diaspora Series


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-13

I have had the privilege of watching my parents pursue degrees and advanced studies in my adolescent and adult life. Their perseverance and curiosity have been a constant source of inspiration, their encouragement and support have made all I do possible, and their love has made it all worthwhile. I would also like to thank my professors and fellow graduate student colleagues at UCLA in ...

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Introduction: Le Tumulte Noir (Part 1) French Imperial Soundscapes and the New World

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pp. 1-19

From cabaret stages and colonial expositions to negritude screams and doudouist polemics the black African diaspora literally cries out. The walls that fix identity, whether conceptual or architectural, are not soundproof; rather, they are shot through with proximities of sonic presence that interrogate faith in structural integrity. The tumulte noir—that joyfully raucous sound of black ...

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1 “Adieu Madras, Adieu Foulard” The Doudou’s Colonial Complaint

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pp. 20-46

On departure, the amputation of his being vanishes as the ocean liner comes into view. He can read the authority and mutation he has acquired in the eyes of those accompanying him to the ship: “Adieu If “to speak,” as Frantz Fanon argues, “means above all assuming a culture and bearing the weight of a civilization” (1–2), his reference to “Adieu madras, adieu ...

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2 “To Begin the Biguine” Re-membering Antillean Musical Time

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pp. 47-73

While twentieth-century Antillean regionalist poet Emmanuel Flavia-Léopold affectionately names his nostalgic collection of poems after the folkloric song “Adieu madras, Adieu foulard,” negritude poet Guy Tirolien’s “Adieu ‘Adieu Foulards,’ ” in Balles d’or aligns himself with the poetic camp of a certain Antil-Tirolien’s poetic scream breaks up the colonial romance between the doudou and ...

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3 La Baker Princesse Tam Tam and the Doudou’s Signature Dilemma

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pp. 74-96

Josephine Baker has historically gotten shortchanged in black Atlantic scholarship and historiographies: despite her unheard-of success, many critics write her off as a failure and/or completely erase her altogether. William Shack, in his otherwise quite enjoyable and useful contribution to black American jazz history in France, goes out of his way to disqualify and undercut Baker’s status in ...

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4 Negritude Drum Circles The Tam-Tam and the Beat

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pp. 97-122

When Jean-Paul Sartre designates the poetics of negritude as a genre de tam-tam he picks up on the struggle over a crucial soundpost in black transnational and French imperial thought. The timely critical strike of his essay “Orphée noir” delivers extra force from its position as the preface to the historic negri-...

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5 Le Poste Colonial Short-Wave Colonial Radio and Negritude’s Poetic Technologies

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pp. 123-145

Léona Gabriel’s radio show career and the speakerine’s position as narrator of a certain musical family history in the film Biguine offer case studies of the ways in which French West Indian cultural agents took to the soundwaves to stage their own versions of New World colonial history and contemporary diasporic relations. Like the other soundposts critically listened to in this book (i.e., the doudou’s signature song, the biguine...

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Conclusion: Notes from the Sound Field

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pp. 146-154

Desire beats at the heart of New World soundtexts. But if rhythm is a series of continuities and ruptures in time, when is the break the end and when is it just the missing moment inherent in the beating? Given the cross-rhythms of mythology manifest in the tam-tam, the doudou, le cri noir, le poste colonial, the raté— when are the aesthetic and...


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pp. 155-160


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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-178

E-ISBN-13: 9781421410609
E-ISBN-10: 1421410605
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421410593
Print-ISBN-10: 1421410591

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 19 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The Callaloo African Diaspora Series
Series Editor Byline: Charles Henry Rowell, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 857167626
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Black Soundscapes White Stages

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • West Indian literature (French) -- History and criticism.
  • Sound (Philosophy).
  • African diaspora in literature.
  • Blacks -- West Indies, French -- Music -- History.
  • Beguines (Music) -- West Indies, French -- History.
  • Negritude (Literary movement).
  • Soundscapes (Music) -- West Indies, French.
  • Poetics -- Language.
  • West Indies, French -- Colonization.
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