Moving Pain Home: Cultural Production and Performance Out of Black Trauma and Terror

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This project looks at performances of terror and trauma centering Black bodies and the ways that they perform in everyday life and bracketed performances. In this project, I examine how the work of Black cultural producers questions the imaginary logic of white supremacist hegemony. I argue that this is best theorized through lived experiences of Black people, real and imagined. It is only through the interrogation of performed Black embodiment as traumatic negotiation that we can understand the complex instruments that have ensured the survival of precarious black bodies in a metaphorical war zone.

I discuss how Suzan-Lori Parks's 2015 play, Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts I, II, and III as a theatrical development that has responded to intentional and unintentional sites of harm in the forms of oppression and violence. I question the idea of what it means to “go to war” in the context of police brutality inflicted on Black bodies. In the midst of anti-Black sentiment, or a metaphorical war with material consequences enacted against Black bodies, I look at Black people's subjection to hypersurveillance and how countersurveillance or sousveillance can serve as self-defense. If one is able to survive the war, one must then ask how do we come home from it intact, despite the invisible traumas of unending threats. Examining dance as of an act of corporeal linguistic agency, in the final section I look at the transhistorical phenomenon that is blues dancing, specifically honing in on the Slow Drag. I consider how moving beyond its potential as a strategy of survival can lead to identifying in it sources of recovery, resistance, and emancipation. In doing so, I attempt to sift through a history of Black vernacular dance in order to illuminate the possibility that dance, among these other Black cultural products, creates spaces of joy, solidarity, and healing.