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Stolen Time: The Ontology of Black Fad Performance

Stolen Time: The Ontology of Black Fad Performance

(p.31) One Stolen Time: The Ontology of Black Fad Performance
Stolen Time
Shane Vogel
University of Chicago Press

What does it mean to be a fad? This chapter outlines a historically specific ontology that unfolds within the political economy of race and entertainment between the 1890s and the 1960s. Vogel argues that the special temporality of fad culture creates perilous conditions for black fad performers that corroborate black social and political life under Jim Crow. Within this horizon of (im)possibility, the repetition of fad cycles over time are a kind of eternal return of the same that trapped performers in cycles of racialized consumption. But they also allowed some fad performances to co-opt this co-opted time. The argument of this chapter advances in three stages: first historically, then politico-economically, and finally ontologically. It begins with an account of the three major black fad cycles of the long Jim Crow era: the ragtime craze, the Negro vogue, and the calypso craze. It then considers the political economy of the fad. If finally turns to the performances of gravel-voiced calypso chanteuse Josephine Premice who, at the height of the calypso craze, allegorized the ontology of black fad performance by explicitly thematizing the opportunities to pilfer the time of the fad for oneself.

Keywords:   fad, Jim Crow, race, racialized consumption, performance, ragtime, Negro vogue, calypso, calypso craze, Josephine Premice

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