James Baldwin and the Performance of (Something Other Than) Subjectivity

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Evan Duncan


“James Baldwin and the Performance of (Something Other Than Subjectivity)" is primarily focused on the intersection of two primary sources, James Baldwin's novel Another Country, and Horace Ové's film Baldwin's Nigger. It is concerned with the performance of subjectivity, and argues that normative subjectivity is racialized, sexualized, and gendered, predicated on (self) possessive individualism and the regulation of materiality and difference. Rufus Scott, a black jazz drummer and the main character of Baldwin's novel, is unable to survive becausethe imposition of normative subjectivity is too much to bear, and it interdicts his ability to imagine alternative modes of life. However, prior to his death, Rufus offers an utterance that bears alternative potential in its refusal of the terms of normative subjectivity. This essay focuses on the ways in which that potentiality is taken up by the film as Baldwin and his interlocutors, in thinking through the need to collectively construct a different world, perform something other than subjectivity.

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