The 1957 black-cast Broadway musical Jamaica achieved enormous commercial success, presenting a spectacle of a mid-century popular Caribbeana. Returning to this musical and its production history in the light of recent theorizations of the transnational, this essay identifies a tradition of “mock transnational performance” that has been significant within African American commercial theatre and that shapes Jamaica’s staging of the Caribbean. Mock transnational is meant to describe a theatrical mode and performative stance that takes up the misuse of diasporic cultural indices to critique and refigure the politics of the nation-state and racialized national formations. The essay locates Jamaica’s mock transnational strategies in the leftist poetry of lyricist Yip Harburg; in the auditory maneuvers and performance strategies of its star, Lena Horne; and in the networks of professional support and social activism cultivated in the musical’s backstage relations. These surplus moments made use of diasporic imaginative geographies, sounds, and gestures—often in tension with the musical’s book—to explore and complicate the relationship between African American racial consciousness and theatrical form, on the one hand, and African diasporic histories and fantasies on the other.


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pp. 1-21
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