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Not Just Clowning Around: Blackface Yesterday and Today (PAMLA 2019)

San Diego, CA
Organization: PAMLA
Event: PAMLA 2019
Categories: Popular Culture, African-American, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Cultural Studies, History
Event Date: 2019-11-14 to 2019-11-17 Abstract Due: 2019-06-10

As recent events in Virginia demonstrated, blackface minstrelsy is far from being a thing of the past. Both Virginia governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have admitted to wearing blackface, and both men are still in office. Northam and Herring are far from alone—celebrities and frat boys have also caused similar media frenzies. Despite its taboo status and overtly racist underpinnings, blackface continues to happen. In his seminal work on the phenomenon, Eric Lott argued that early blackface minstrelsy emerged out of the “intersection of slave culture and earlier blackface stage characters such as the…clown of English pantomime and the clown of the American circus.” What might this lineage tell us about the ongoing prevalence and relevance of blackface? This session invites proposals that consider and examine modern and past manifestations of blackface minstrelsy, its legacies, and its influence. Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words by June 10, 2019, via pamla.ballastacademic.com. 



Allison M. Johnson