One. Haunted City

From: Haunted City

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

one | Haunted City There is no place that is not haunted by many different spirits hidden there in silence, spirits one can “invoke” or not. Haunted places are the only ones people can live in. —­ Michel de Certeau In 2002 my wife, Caitlin, and I rented a one-­ bedroom row house on a treeless alley near the corner of Seventh and Wharton Streets in South Philadelphia. Twoblocksfromus,thecitystopped.Vacantlotsstrewnwithrubblestretched eastward along Wharton from Fifth Street to Moyamensing Avenue, where rows of houses suddenly sprang up again. This was Pennsport, a traditionally Irish Catholic neighborhood with neat, lace-­ curtain homes (most of them tiny, like ours) and a cluster of venerated mummers’ clubhouses along Second Street. To an erstwhile Californian like me, this was a mysterious landscape . What used to occupy the empty blocks around Fifth and Wharton? And if this corner and its environs were abandoned (for so they seemed to me at first), how had Pennsport—­ a two-­ block-­ wide sliver of a neighborhood between Moyamensing and Interstate 95—­ remained intact? On warm weekend afternoons, I would walk past the old Italian man selling loose cigarettes on our corner, past the Vietnamese and Cambodian grocery stores on Sixth Street, past the sagging chain-­ link fences that pretended to guard the vacant lots along Wharton between Fifth and Moyamensing , and then down Second Street, where groups of middle-­ aged men gathered in front of mummers’ clubhouses to laugh, drink beer, and play music together on banjoes and saxophones. I loved living in South Philadelphia . I loved this walk. And before long, roaming these streets, I came to believe that the places around me were haunted. Mumming and Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia This book is rooted in my longstanding interest in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, an annual, New Year’s Day event with a complex and trou- 2 haunted citY bled history of racial impersonation. Jill Lane and Marcial Godoy-­ Anativia argue that, While impersonation is at the very heart of theatrical practice, racial impersonation leads us to a dense social terrain shaped by struggles over power, nation, labor, and identity. Including practices as varied as blackface, passing, and ventriloquism, racial impersonation always involves drawing, crossing, and traversing a line of racial difference . While it may sometimes blur or contest that line, more often than not such impersonation serves to mark and police the boundaries that organize sociality along the axis of race, forcefully defining who can and cannot occupy what racial positions.1 In this chapter and the pages that follow, I explore blackface masking and other forms of racial impersonation in Philadelphia—­ as realized in street performance, festivity, theater, and graphic art—­ from the late eighteenth century through the present day. Given the interdisciplinary character and wide historical scope of my research, I do not attempt to offer a comprehensive history of racial impersonation in Philadelphia. Rather, I focus on select historical moments when local performances of racial impersonation—­ in whatever medium—­ inflected regional, national, transnational, and global formations of race, gender, class, and ethnicity. As such, this project draws on and contributes to scholarship on the history of street performance in the urban United States, the history of blackface minstrelsy, and performance studies research on racial formations in the Atlantic world. Although my arguments move across time and space, across media, and across academic disciplines, I remain focused throughout on local practices of racial impersonation , mostly (but not exclusively) in Philadelphia. In early modern Europe—­ especially France, Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia—­ groups of disguised mummers roved from house to house during the Christmas season, performing brief, comic sketches and expecting food, drink, or a small tip in return. As early as the seventeenth century, immigrants from England and Sweden introduced mumming to colonial Pennsylvania. In a diary entry from December 24, 1686, Englishman Richard Pennyworth, who was visiting family in Philadelphia, recalled “a great noise of bagpipes, and the door being opened, in comes a party of mummers alle decked out in a most fantastick manner.”2 During the winter holidays in 1780–­ 81, Philadelphian Christopher Marshall wrote in his diary of men “firing guns in the night” and “before day sundry kinds of music, I presume, paraded the Streets.”3 3 haunted city In both Europe and North America, mummers sometimes wore blackface makeup, a common disguise in early modern popular performance. Natalie Zemon Davis argues that blackface and male-­ to-­ female transvestism frequently appeared together in France, Britain, and Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth...