April 28

History Workshop: Prof. Elizabeth Colwill

“Revolution: A Performance in Three Acts”
Friday, April 28
2:30 – 4:00 PM
Sakamaki Hall A-201, History Department Seminar Room

Confronted with the limitations of traditional archival sources for our understanding of gender, slavery, and emancipation, scholars have developed strategies of reading traditional sources “against the grain” even as they redefine what counts as “the archive.” This talk hones in on the interpretive challenges posed by one particular site: a festival choreographed in Bourg-Régénéré, France in 1794 to celebrate one extraordinary revolutionary moment–the abolition of slavery in the French empire. The festival at Bourg-Régénéré—and others like it–unfolded theatrically through a series of embodied, performative acts, both staged and unstaged. This talk interweaves formal politics and public processions, discourse and dance, history and performance theory as it places racialized and gendered bodies at the center of its archive. It suggests that reading the festivals of emancipation as performance enables new kinds of engagements with the dusty, eighteenth-century documentary record.

Banner image: History Workshop Theme Image – Hawaiian Drummers by Jean Charlot, 1950, Jean Charlot Collection.
Talk image: Source – Prof. Elizabeth Colwill