Paul Robeson and the Cold War Performance Complex
Race, Madness, Activism
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance
Title Page, Copyright Page
Introduction: The Red Mask of Sanity
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When Paul Robeson allegedly stated at the 1949 Paris Peace Conference that it would be “unthinkable” for blacks to fight in a potential war against the Soviet Union, he was vilified in the United States as a mentally unstable traitor. While the U.S. press in general dubbed Robeson as un-American, the New York Times claimed he suffered from “twisted...
Part I: Tonal Treason and HUAC’s Psychoanalytic Theater
One: Black Performances and the Stagecraft of Statecraft
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In the decades since the height of their power in the late 1940s and 1950s, the hearings held by the House Committee on UnAmerican activities (HUAC) have become widely seen as spectacles that operated at nexus of ritual and theater. Victor Navasky, for example, calls the hearings a “ritual...
Two: Performing Informing and Shrieking Innocence: Surveillance, Informance, and the Performance of Performance
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There were a few revelations for committee members during Robeson’s HUAC hearing, just as in most other HUAC spectacles. In fact, many witnesses were even provided with names to offer up to the committee. This absence is perhaps the most significant quality of HUAC hearings as technologies of the Cold War performance complex. The hearings...
Part II: Discordant Tones and the Melody of Freedom at Peekskill
Three: Anticommunism and the American Lynching Imagination
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Upon Paul Robeson's return to New York from the Paris Peace Conference in July 1949, Harlem residents filled the streets to welcome home their sometimes neighbor. Residents were undeterred by the national press’s vilification of Robeson for his Paris remarks that it was “unthinkable"...
Four: Shedding Blood and Beating Back Fascists
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With a thousand state and county police on hand, the many New York City blacks and Jews who filled school buses for the September 4 concert thought themselves to be safe. Many even brought their children and a picnic lunch. In Peekskill, however, residents planned once again to disrupt the concert. Stephen Szego, who had rented his pasture...
Five: Staging Anticommunism, Staging Racist Violence
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When i is addressed in historical accounts of anticommunism during the Cold War, the violence in Peekskill is usually considered anachronistic. Anticommunism is thought to be the purview of the social violence of blacklisting and public shaming, rather than direct bodily harm...
Coda: The Complex and the Rupture
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Reckoning with the cold war assemblages of power, discourse, and spectacles as a “performance complex” highlights not only those networks’ elaborate and far-reaching breadth and control, but also the tenuousness of their stability and the vulnerability of power at a key site of...
Appendix: Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, June 12, 1956
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Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 23 B&W photos
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance