Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: circum-Atlantic Performance. New York. Columbia University Press, 1996.

Selection: Chapter 1

Chapter 1
 
Introduction: History, Memory, and Performance

Today documents include
the spoken word, the image, gestures.

Jacques LeGoff

When benevolent managers speak now of balancing budgets by “natural attrition,” they propose to harvest the
actuarial fruits of retirement, resignation, and death. But more often than not, they also propose to replace the recently
departed by asking those remaining behind to enhance their performances. These performances then constitute rites of memory in honor of the artificially superannuated. Into the professional and social places they once occupied step the
anxious survivors, who now feel obliged more or less to reinvent themselves, taking into account the roles played by
their predecessors. As a lifelong theater person, I take a keen interest in the imposition of such histrionics on civilian
life. They bring to mind theatrical terms such as casting and miscasting, script and improvisation, memory and
imagination. In addition to the ample opportunities for overwork that such policies often provide, they may also entail
the demanding psychological obligations of double consciousness, the self-reflexive interaction of identity and role.

The all-too-familiar practice of downsizing by attrition, however, takes advantage of a much more powerful underlying phenomenon. Even when financial exigencies do not dictate retrenchment, a process goes on normally that is very
much like the one that administrations impose in a pinch. Here too the dramaturgy of doubling in a role governs the
functions of cultural

 
 
---Page 2---
transmission in the service of institutional memory. I have noticed, for instance, that when death or retirement removes
a colleague from a community as interdependent as an academic department, despite the conventional panegyrics
attesting to the fact that he or she can never be replaced, one or more of the survivors will move in to take over,
overtly or covertly, the positions vacated by the decedent. These positions will more often prove to be the emotional
and psychological nodal points within the human dynamics of the community, though they may encompass the
intellectual ones as well. Consciously or unconsciously, even the big shoes will get filled, but rarely by the new person
hired as a replacement. I am not the only one among my acquaintances to have remarked on this phenomenon. The
speed at which roles can change hands prompted a recent retiree I know to define the status of professor emeritus as
“forgotten but not gone.” While savoring this witty inversion of the spurious immortality routinely granted by eulogists, I have also been pondering its double meaning, the real functions of social continuity and cultural preservation that it
suggests. As he was fading away, my retiring colleague stumbled over the paradox of collective perpetuation: memory
is a process that depends crucially on forgetting.

This book, in fact, takes up the three-sided relationship of memory, performance, and substitution. In it I propose to
examine how culture reproduces and recreates itself by a process that can be best described by the word
surrogation. In the life of a community, the process of surrogation does not begin or end but continues as actual or
perceived vacancies occur in the network of relations that constitutes the social fabric. Into the cavities created by loss through death or other forms of departure, I hypothesize, survivors attempt to fit satisfactory alternates. Because
collective memory works selectively, imaginatively, and often perversely, surrogation rarely if ever succeeds. The
process requires many trials and at least as many errors. The fit cannot be exact. The intended substitute either cannot
fulfill expectations, creating a deficit, or actually exceeds them, creating a surplus. Then too the surrogate-elect may
prove to be a divisive choice, one around whom factions polarize, or the prospective nominee may tap deep motives
of prejudice and fear, so that even before the fact the unspoken possibility of his or her candidacy incites phobic
anxiety. Finally, the very uncanniness of the process of surrogation, which tends to disturb the complacency of all
thoughtful incumbents, may provoke many unbidden emotions, ranging from mildly incontinent sentimentalism to raging paranoia. As ambivalence deepens before the specter of inexorable antiquation, even the necessary
 

---3---
preparations of the likely successors may alienate the affections of the officeholders—all the more powerfully when
social or cultural differences exacerbate generational ones. At these times, improvised narratives of authenticity and
priority may congeal into full-blown myths of legitimacy and origin.

In the likely event that one or more of the above calamities occurs, selective memory requires public enactments of
forgetting, either to blur the obvious discontinuities, misalliances, and ruptures or, more desperately, to exaggerate
them in order to mystify a previous Golden Age, now lapsed. In such dramas of sacrificial substitution, the derivation
of the word personality from mask eerily doubles that of tragedy from goat. I believe that the process of trying out
various candidates in different situations—the doomed search for originals by continuously auditioning stand-ins—is
the most important of the many meanings that users intend when they say the word performance.

Competing definitions do proliferate. In his etymological account, anthropologist Victor Turner traces performance to the Old French word parfournir, meaning “to furnish forth,” “to complete,” or “to carry out thoroughly” (From
Ritual to Theatre
, 13). Ethnolinguist Richard Bauman, in his concise entry in the International Encyclopedia of
Communications
, locates the meaning of performance in the actual execution of an action as opposed to its potential (3:262—66), a meaning that operates in the theatrical performance of a script, in an automobile’s performance on the
test track, or in parole’s performance of langue. Theorist and director Richard Schechner, who has advanced the
most focused and at the same time the most widely applicable definition of performance, calls it “restored behavior”
or “twice-behaved behavior,” by which he actually means behavior that “is always subject to revision,” behavior that
must be reinvented the second time or “the nth time” because it cannot happen exactly the same way twice, even
though in some instances the “constancy of transmission” across many generations may be “astonishing” (Between
Theater and Anthropology
, 36—37; cf. Bauman and Briggs; Hymes). These three definitions of performance—that
it carries out purposes thoroughly, that it actualizes a potential, or that it restores a behavior—commonly assume that
performance offers a substitute for something else that preexists it. Performance, in other words, stands in for an
elusive entity that it is not but that it must vainly aspire both to embody and to replace. Hence flourish the abiding yet
vexed affinities between performance and memory, out of which blossom the most florid

--- Page 4 ---
nostalgias for authenticity and origin. “Where memory is,” notes theorist-director Herbert Blau, “theatre is” (382).
This book, however, is not about surrogation (or performance) as a universal, transhistorical structure. I want to
contextualize its processes within a specific though very extensive historic and material continuum. The research
strategies I favor emphasize the comparative approach to the theatrical, musical, and ritual traditions of many cultures.
To that agenda, however, I would add the qualification of historical contingency: first, the intercultural communication
that certain performances enabled at specific times and places; and second, the internal cultural self-definition that
these and other performances produced by making visible the play of difference and identity within the larger ensemble of relations.

Circum-Atlantic Memory

Both intercultural and internally self-referential occasions of performance mark the connected places and times that
constitute what I am calling, as the geohistorical locale for my thesis about memory as substitution, the circum­Atlantic
world. As it emerged from the revolutionized economies of the late seventeenth century, this world resembled a vortex in which commodities and cultural practices changed hands many times. The most revolutionary commodity in this
economy was human flesh, and not only because slave labor produced huge quantities of the addictive substances
(sugar, coffee, tobacco, and—most insidiously—sugar and chocolate in combination) that transformed the world
economy and financed the industrial revolution (Mintz). The concept of a circum-Atlantic world (as opposed to a
transatlantic one) insists on the centrality of the diasporic and genocidal histories of Africa and the Americas, North
and South, in the creation of the culture of modernity. In this sense, a New World was not discovered in the
Caribbean, but one was truly invented there. Newness enacts a kind of surrogation—in the invention of a new England or a new France out of the memories of the old—but it also conceptually erases indigenous populations, contributing
to a mentality conducive to the practical implementation of the American Holocaust (Stannard). While a great deal of
the unspeakable violence instrumental to this creation may have been officially forgotten, circum-Atlantic memory
retains its consequences, one of which is that the unspeakable cannot be rendered forever inexpressible: the most
persistent mode of forgetting is memory imperfectly deferred.

 

---Page 5---
For this region-centered conception, which locates the peoples of the Caribbean rim at the heart of an oceanic
interculture embodied through performance, I am indebted to Paul Gilroy’s formulation of the “Black Atlantic.” In
three prescient books, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack”: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation
(1987), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993),and Small Acts: Thoughts on the
Politics of Black Cultures (1993),Gilroy expands the cultural horizons of modern history in a way that does not
begin and end at national borders but charts its course along the dark currents of a world economy that slavery once
propelled: “A new structure of cultural exchange,” he writes, “has been built up across the imperial networks which
once played host to the triangular trade of sugar, slaves and capital” (Union Jack, 157). The idea of circum-Atlantic
cultural exchange does not deny Eurocolonial initiatives their place in this history—indeed, it must newly reconsider
and interrogate them—but it regards the results of those initiatives as the insufficiently acknowledged cocreations of an oceanic intercuhure. This interculture shares in the contributions of many peoples along the Atlantic rim—for example,
Bambara, Iroquois, Spanish, English, Aztec, Yoruba, and French. I argue in this book that the scope of the
circum-Atlantic interculture may be discerned most vividly by means of the performances, performance traditions, and
the representations of performance that it engendered. This is true, I think, because performances so often carry within them the memory of otherwise forgotten substitutions—those that were rejected and, even more invisibly, those that
have succeeded.

The key to understanding how performances worked within a culture, recognizing that a fixed and unified culture
exists only as a convenient but dangerous fiction, is to illuminate the process of surrogation as it operated between the
participating cultures. The key, in other words, is to understand how circum-Atlantic societies, confronted with
revolutionary circumstances for which few precedents existed, have invented themselves by performing their pasts in
the presence of others. They could not perform themselves, however, unless they also performed what and who they
thought they were not. By defining themselves in opposition to others, they produced mutual representations from
encomiums to caricatures, sometimes in each another’s presence, at other times behind each other’s backs. In the
very form of minstrelsy, for example, as Eric Lott suggests in Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the
American Working Class
(1993),there resides the deeply seated and potentially threatening possibility of
 

---Page 6---
involuntary surrogation through the act of performance. “Mimicry,” writes Homi K. Bhabha, “is at once resemblance
and menace” (86). This is so because, even as parody, performances propose possible candidates for succession.
They raise the possibility of the replacement of the authors of the representations by those whom they imagined into
existence as their definitive opposites.

A number of important consequences ensue from this custom of self-definition by staging contrasts with other races,
cultures, and ethnicities. Identity and difference come into play (and into question) simultaneously and coextensively.
The process of surrogation continues, but it does so in a climate of heightened anxiety that outsiders will somehow
succeed in replacing the original peoples, or autochthons. This process is unstoppable because candidates for
surrogation must be tested at the margins of a culture to bolster the fiction that it has a core. That is why the surrogated double so often appears as alien to the culture that reproduces it and that it reproduces. That is why the relentless
search for the purity of origins is a voyage not of discovery but of erasure.

The anxiety generated by the process of substitution justifies the complicity of memory and forgetting. In the face of
this anxiety—a momentary self-consciousness about surrogation that constitutes what might pass for reflexivity—the
alien double may appear in memory only to disappear. That disappearance does not diminish its contributions to
cultural definition and preservation; rather, it enables them. Without failures of memory to obscure the mixtures,
blends, and provisional antitypes necessary to its production, for example, “whiteness,” one of the major scenic
elements of several circum-Atlantic performance traditions, could not exist even as perjury, nor could there flourish
more narrowly defined, subordinate designs such as “Anglo-Saxon Liberty.” Even the immaculate “guardian angels”
who sing the chorus of divine origin in James Thompson’s “Rule Britannia,” for example, must have recourse to a
concept charged with high antithetical seriousness to rhyme with “waves.” In Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and
the Literary Imagination
(1992), Toni Morrison interprets the angelic chorus exactly: “The concept of freedom did
not emerge in a vacuum. Nothing highlighted freedom—if it did not in fact create it—like slavery” (38).

On the one hand, forgetting, like miscegenation, is an opportunistic tactic of whiteness. As a Yoruba proverb puts it:
“The white man who made the pencil also made the eraser.” On the other hand, the vast scale of the project of
whiteness—and the scope of the contacts among cultures it required—
 
 

---Page 7---
limited the degree to which its foils could be eradicated from the memory of those who had the deepest motivation and the surest means to forget them. At the same time, however, it fostered complex and ingenious schemes to displace,
refashion, and transfer those persistent memories into representations more amenable to those who most frequently
wielded the pencil and the eraser. In that sense, circum-Atlantic performance is a monumental study in the pleasures
and torments of incomplete forgetting. But more obdurate questions persist: Whose forgetting? Whose memory?
Whose history?

Locations and Bearings

Because anything like what might be called coverage of the possible inclusions under the rubric of circum-Atlantic
performance would be beyond the imaginable scope of this volume (or many), I have settled here on the exploration
of particular historical formations at specific times at two sites, London and New Orleans. Though remote from one
another in obvious respects—antiquity, climate, and cuisine spring quickly to mind—these places are not arbitrarily
selected. As river-sited ports of entry linking interior lines of communication to sea lanes, London and New Orleans
have histories joined at a pivotal moment in the colonial rivalry of francophone and anglophone interests as they
collided in the late seventeenth and eigh­teenth centuries in North America and the West Indies. Historians have
stressed the importance of the conflict between Great Britain and France on sea and land—the “whale” against the
“elephant”—in the forging of modern nation-states and “Great Powers” (Colley, 1, quoting Kennedy, 16o). These
European interests, however, were intimately connected with Amerindian and African ones. A significant body of
recent historical and ethnohistorical research has reexamined those latter interests as dynamic and inventive (rather
than inert) in the face of Eurocolonial expansion. My selective history of circum-Atlantic performance draws heavily on this renovated scholarship of encounter and exchange.

The great Iroquois Confederacy, for instance—a creation of centuries of Forest Diplomacy—negotiated through
brilliant intercultural performances the Covenant Chain of trade and military alliances that linked the fur producing
hinterlands of the vast Great Lakes region to the thinly held European enclaves of the eastern seaboard (Axtell;
Dennis; Jennings, Iroquois Diplomacy; Richter). In “Culture Theory in Contemporary Ethnohistory (1988),
 
 

---Page 8---
William S. Simmons describes these diplomatic and trade relations as “an interaction and confrontation between
autonomous social entities, rather than as a one-sided playing out of Eurocolonial myths of manifest destiny” (6).
Iroquois played a significant and self-promoting role in the geometric proliferation of wealth centered in the triangular
trade: carrying a different cargo along each leg of the Atlantic triangle comprising the Americas (raw materials),
Europe (manufactured goods), and Africa (human beings), the holds of merchant ships never had to cross blue water
empty. The consequences of the ensuing material productions are incalculable; the mother of hemispheric
superstructural invention, they provide a common matrix for the diversified performance genres to which this book is
devoted.

Even for the largest system, however, heuristic opportunity, like God or the Devil, is in the details. One site of
circum-Atlantic memory that I propose to excavate is located in London in 1710, during the performance-rich state
visit to Queen Anne’s court by four Iroquois “Kings.” Among other public exhibitions and entertainments, a staging of
Sir William Davenant’s operatic version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth honored their embassy, a performance during
which their hosts insisted that the Native Americans be placed in full view onstage (Bond, 3-4). Such an imposition
need not have been as alien or as intimidating as might be supposed. Experienced in staging Condolence Councils,
those great intersocietal mourning and peace rituals that mediated among Dutch, French, English, and diverse
Algonquian and Iroquoian interests, the Mohawks referred to themselves as onckwe, “the Real People.” As such,
they believed themselves descended from Deganawidah, the semidivine peacemaker who, with the aid of Hiawatha,
overcame witchcraft and the cyclical violence of feuding clans to establish the Great League of Peace and Power.
Thereafter the league existed to settle grievances, condole losses, and negotiate alliances through gift exchange and
ritual performance of speeches, songs, and dances (Richter, 30-49). The Kings came to London to promote the
Anglo-Iroquois invasion of French Canada in the interests of the fur trade, and they arrived at a decisive moment
during the War of the Spanish Succession, when events were leading up to the Treaties of Utrecht in 1713-14.

According to The New Cambridge Modem History, the watershed Peace of Utrecht—whereby Great Britain
acquired the coveted Asiento, the monopoly on the slave trade in the Spanish West Indies— "marks the passing of
the Mediterranean as the centre of world trade and power rivalries
 
 

---Page 9---
[when] attention shifted to the Atlantic” (Bromley, 571). Alfred Thayer Mahan, summarizing the War of the Spanish
Succession in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History (1890), the most materially influential work of academic
theory written in the past century, describes its consequences: “Before that war England was one of the sea powers;
after it she was the sea power, without any second” (225). In the festival panegyric Windsor-Forest (1713), a
poetical celebration of the Peace of Utrecht, Alexander Pope imagined the glorious deforestation of rural England in
the cause of maritime empire:

                    Thy Trees, fair Windsor! now shall leave their Woods,
                    And Half thy Forests rush into my Floods,
                    Bear Britain’s Thunder, and her Cross display,
                    To the bright Regions of the rising Day.
                                        (Poems 1:189)
 

To the dancelike numbers of Windsor-Forest, which record the embassy of the “Feather’d People,” I will return in a
later chapter on the representation of performances of encounter at the time of the Treaties of Utrecht. The
geopolitical advantages won by Great Britain in this general peace and the supremacy that the Royal Navy had
attained motivated the French to attempt to consolidate their position in North America, including strategic
development of the territory bearing the name of Louis XIV. They did this in part by situating a fortified city in
Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River, roughly equidistant along water routes between Canada and their
island possessions in the West Indies, demarcating a great arc of Gallic entitlement arrayed to contest further
trans-Appalachian expansion by the Anglo-Americans and the Real People.

We now know that success did not ultimately crown the French grand strategy. But in the meantime,
contemporaneously with the apogee of the North American Covenant Chain, the French in colonial Louisiana
relocated significant numbers of West Africans, principally Bambara, from one African regional interculture,
Senegambia, into an area already possessing highly developed Amerindian performance cultures. Circumstances
favored the reciprocal acculturation of Creoles of various lineages within a unique network of African, American, and
European practices. These included mortuary rituals, carnival festivities, and a multitude of musical and dance forms
that others would eventually describe (and appropriate) under the rubric of jazz. At the same time, the Africans
brought with them
 
 

---Page 10---
vital necessities such as skilled agriculture: “The survival of French Louisiana,” writes Gwendolyn Midlo Hall in her
magisterial Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (1992), “was due not only to African labor but also to African technology” (121). Under the superimpositions of
slavery, as well as around its fringes beyond the margins of the ciprière (swamp), there flourished a powerful culture
that reinvented Africa—and ultimately America—within the only apparently impermeable interstices of European
forms. In that respect, Louisiana participated in the formation of the complex identities of the circum-Caribbean rim
(Fiehrer), even as it negotiated its incremental assimilation into the hypothetical monoculture of Anglo North America.

The other main site that I explore, then, is located in the records of the long “Americanization” (that is, Anglification
and Africanization) of Latin New Orleans, a process that begins before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803and continues
to be reenacted in the streets of this performance-saturated city today (Carter; Hirsch and Logsdon). A principal
public instrument of this reenactment remains Mardi Gras, nominally a French cultural residue, which long ago was
appropriated by so many competing interests of ethnicity, nationality, class, race, religion, gender, and caste that its
meaning can be assessed appropriately only in relationship to other genres of circum-Atlantic and Caribbean
performance (Kinser; Mitchell; M. Smith, Mardi Gras Indians). Through its complex hierarchy of ritualized memory,
Mardi Gras stages an annual spectacle of cultural surrogations, including the multilayered imbrication of carnivalesque
license, symbolic freedom marches by descendants of Afro-Amerindian Maroons, and the discursive claims of
“Anglo-Saxon Liberty” as realized in float parades and debutante balls. The history of performance in New Orleans
supports the wisdom of the exhortation that opens Hall’s account of African Louisiana: “‘National history’ must be
transcended, and colonial history treated within a global context” (xii).

Materials and Methods

The various contributors to Questions of Evidence: Proof Practice, and Persuasion Across the
Disciplines
(1991),a compendium of essays originally published in Critical Inquiry, explore the interdisciplinary
dimensions of the issues set forth in the editors’ introduction: “the configuration of the fact--evidence distinction in
different disciplines and historical moments”
 

---Page 11---
(Chandler, Davidson, and Harootunian, 2). By creating a category called “circum-Atlantic performance” that
intentionally cuts across disciplinary boundaries and the conventional subcategories and periodizations within them, I
have incurred an obligation to be explicit about the materials and methods—the evidence—I have used to imagine
what that category entails.

One important strategy of performance research today is to juxtapose living memory as restored behavior against a
historical archive of scripted records (Balme). In the epigraph at the head of this chapter from hisHistory and
Memory
(1992), Jacques Le Goff sets out the variety of mnemonic materials—speech, images, gestures—that
supplement or contest the authority of “documents” in the historiographic tradition of the French annalistes (xvii).
Their vast projects—for instance, histories of private life, histories of death, or histories of memory itself—attend
especially to those performative practices that maintain (and invent) human continuities, leaving their traces in
diversified media, including the living bodies of the successive generations that sustain different social and cultural
identities (Ariès; Nora).

Summarizing the fruits of research into the transmission of culture in societies distinguished by different modalities of
communication, Le Goff identifies “three major interests” of those “without writing”: (1) myth, particularly myths of
origin; (2) genealogies, particularly of leading families; and (3) practical formulas of daily living and special
observances, particularly those “deeply imbued with religious magic” (58). While acknowledging the preliminary
usefulness of such formulations, typically organized under the portmanteau concept of orality, performance studies
goes on to question the assumption that the “interests” Le Goff defines do not also manifest themselves in societies
“with writing”—and, for that matter, in those with print, electronic media, and mass communications (Conquergood;
Schechner, The Future of Ritual; Taussig). Performance studies complicates the familiar dichotomy between speech
and writing with what Kenyan novelist and director Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls “orature.” Orature comprises a range of
forms, which, though they may invest themselves variously in gesture, song, dance, processions, storytelling, proverbs,
gossip, customs, rites, and rituals, are nevertheless produced alongside or within mediated literacies of various kinds
and degrees. In other words, orature goes beyond a schematized opposition of literacy and orality as transcendent
categories; rather, it acknowledges that these modes of communication have produced one another interactively over
time and that their historic
 
 

---Page 12---
operations may be usefully examined under the rubric of performance. Ngugi defines the power of orature in collective memory aphoristically: “He is a sweet singer when everybody joins in. The sweet songs last longer, too” (61; cf.
Finnegan; Okpewho; Zumthor).

The historical implications of the concept of orature, though not necessarily under that name, have engaged the
attention of scholars in a number of disciplines. In a recent study of the role of theatricality in the early cultural history
of the United States, for instance, Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of
Performance
(1993),Jay Fliegelman begins with the significant but long-neglected fact that the Declaration of
Independence was just that—a script written to be spoken aloud as oratory. He goes on to document the elocutionary dimension of Anglo-American self-invention, which Thomas Jefferson himself defined in comparison to the expressive
speech of Native Americans, on the one hand, and Africans, on the other (98, 192). Under the close scrutiny of
circum-Atlantic memory, no material event, spoken or written, can remain pure, despite Jefferson’s special pleading
for the revival of Anglo-Saxon as the primal tongue of essential law and liberty (Frantzen, 203—7).

That the chant of the Declaration of Independence calls on the spirits of Jefferson’s Anglo-Saxon ancestors to
authorize his claims—to inalienable rights, including the right to revolt against tyranny—recalls the ritual of freedom
described by C. L. R. James inThe Black Jacobins: Toussaint L ‘Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
(1938):

        Carrying torches to light their way, the leaders of the revolt met in an open space in the thick forests
        of the Morne Rouge, a mountain over­looking Le Cap. There Boukman gave the last instructions
        and, after Voodoo incantations and the sucking of the blood of a stuck pig, he stimulated his
        followers by a prayer spoken in creole, which, like so much spoken on such occasions, has
        remained. “The god who created the sun which gives us light...orders us to revenge our wrongs. He
        will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often
        caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.” (87)
 

Endowed by their Creator with liberty, whose voice spoke through them, the Haitians set about the task of altering
and abolishing their government with spoken words, which they then took the trouble to write down.
Taking cognizance of the interdependence of orature and literature,
 
 

---Page 13---
the materials of the present study are thematized under categories of those restored behaviors that function as vehicles
of cultural transmission. Each category pairs a form of collective memory with the enactments that embody it through
performance: death and burials, violence and sacrifices, laws and (dis)obedience, commodification and auctions,
origins and segregation. All of these may be written about, of course, but even the laws need not have been written
down. They remain partially recorded in the literature, but they are actually remembered and put into practice through
orature, a practice that may be prolonged, supplemented, or revised by printed and photographic representations of
the performance events.

Although these thematic materials are broadly conceived in the amplitude of circum-Atlantic relations, my method is to study them at narrowly delimited sites. My observations of the street performances of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, for instance, have been accumulating since 1991. That was the last year in which the most traditional of the old-line
carnival “krewes” paraded: the passage of a new civil rights ordinance by the New Orleans City Council in December
of that year gave the century-and-a-half-old men’s clubs the choice of desegregating their membership or staying
home (Flake; Vennman, “Boundary Face-Off”). The assertion of legal control over carnival by the City of New
Orleans revived memories of the carnival krewes’ central role in planning and executing the armed overthrow of the
racially integrated government of William Pitt Kellogg in 1874. Known to historians as “the Battle of Liberty Place,”
this was in fact a bloody riot incited by a race-baiting elite. The ordinance controversy, played out for three years in
the council chambers and the media as well as in the streets and running concurrently with the sudden political rise of
Klansman David Duke, burst open a deep, suppurating sore that festers in local memory more poisonously than
history can write.

The method of observation that I employ takes its cue from “Walking in the City,” an essay included in the “Spatial
Practices” section of Michel de Certeau’s Practice of Everyday Life (1984). “To walk,” de Certeau notes, “is to
lack a place” (103). But to walk is also to gain an experience of the cityscape that is conducive to mapping the
emphases and contradictions of us special memory (Boyer; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett). De Certeau looks for key points
of articulation between human behavior and the built environment, noting the “pedestrian speech acts” uttered by
authors “whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it”(93).
Quotidian “speech acts” offer a rich assortment of year
 

---Page 14---
round performances, particularly in a polyglot entrepot and tourist mecca like New Orleans, but festivals— "time out
of time”—intensify and enlarge them to Gargantuan proportions (Falassi). As the Mardi Gras revelers take over the
streets, canalized by police barricades and conditioned reflexes, their traditional gestures and masked excesses
activate the spatial logic of a city built to make certain powers and privileges not only seasonally visible but perpetually reproducible. The crowded spaces become a performance machine for celebrating the occult origin of their
exclusions. Walking in the city makes this visible.

Meanwhile, around the public housing projects and under the highway overpasses, the Mardi Gras Indians—“gangs”
of African-Americans who identify with Native American tribes and parade on unannounced routes costumed in
heart-stoppingly beautiful hand-sewn “suits “—proudly transform their neighborhoods into autonomous places of
embodied memory. More intensely than any of the float parades or promiscuous masquerades of Mardi Gras, the
Indians restage events of circum-Atlantic encounter and surrogation in which European experience remains only
obliquely acknowledged, if at all. Their bodies document those doublings through musical speech, images, and
gestures (figure 1.1).As George Lipsitz points out in Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular
Culture
(1990), “the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans offer an important illustration of the persistence of popular
narratives in the modern world” (234; see also Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads). Their spectacular appearances at
Mardi Gras season (which nonetheless remain aloof from it) are only one genre of performance in the year-round
cornucopia of Afrocentric forms, among them, the Second Line parades staged by numerous social aid and pleasure
clubs and ritual celebrations of death “with music,” popularly known as jazz funerals.

The three-sided relationship of memory, performance, and substitution becomes most acutely visible in mortuary ritual. This study closely attends to those epiphanies. In any funeral, the body of the deceased performs the limits of the
community called into being by the need to mark its passing. United around a corpse that is no longer inside but not
yet outside of its boundaries, the members of a community may reflect on its symbolic embodiment of loss and
renewal. In a jazz funeral, the deceased is generally accompanied at least part of the way to the cemetery by a brass
band and a crowd of mourners who follow an elegant grand marshall (or “Nelson”).
After the body is “cut loose”—sent on its way in the company of family
 

---Page 15---


members—a popular celebration commences, less like a forgetting than a replenishment. As Willie Pajaud, longtime
trumpeter for the Eureka Brass Band, once put it: “I’d rather play a funeral than eat a turkey dinner.” Animated by a
“joyful noise,” supported in many instances by the testimony of deep, spirit-world faith, the dead seem to remain more closely present to the living in New Orleans than they do elsewhere—and not only because they are traditionally
interred in tombs above ground. Walking in the city makes this audible.

Read in the context created by the sounds and sights of these restored behaviors, then, the documents concerning
the London visit of the Iroquois Kings take on a new and different kind of life. In addition to the various performances
they attended while in London—a puppet show, a cockfight, a military review, a concert, a Shakespearean
tragedy—the Native Americans created other events by their spectacular passages through the streets (Altick). They
swept up those walking through the city in impromptu
 

---Page 16---
festivals: “When the fourIndian Kings were in this Country about a Twelve-month ago,” Joseph Addison recalled,
speaking through the persona of Mr. Spectator, “I often mix’d with the Rabble and followed them a whole Day
together, being wonderfully struck with the Sight of every thing that is new or uncommon” (1:211). Addison’s
ambiguous modifier—who is being struck with new sights here? The Kings? The Rabble? Mr. Spectator?— stages
what might be termed the “ethnographic surrealism” of this circum­Atlantic event (Clifford). One important reason why popular performance events entered into the records at this time in greater detail than is usual for such ephemera is that the Kings attended a number of them, while their invited presence at others was heavily advertised to boost
attendance.

The daily repertoires of the two official theaters, Drury Lane and the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, are particularly
worthy of attention in this regard. In addition to the performance of Macbeth at which the Kings were present, two
other revivals held pointed circum-Atlantic interest: John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour; or, The Conquest of
Mexico by the Spaniards
(1665) and Thomas Southerne’s Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave (1694). At a time of
institutional canonization of Shakespeare as the national poet, however, not all the relevant high-culture performances
took place onstage (G. Taylor; Dobson). On the same day that the Native Americans departed from England, the
great Shakespearean actor Thomas Betterton was buried in Westminster Abbey. His passing held an epoch-marking
meaning for many, including Richard Steele, who published a eulogy in The Tatler. Betterton’s fifty-year career
spanned the reigns of Charles II, James II, William and Mary, and Queen Anne; and Steele remarks on the edifying
spectacle of attending this “last Office” (2:422). The breadth of the address of this eulogy, which begins with “Men of
Letters and Education” and then quickly enlarges to embrace all “Free-born People” (2:423),highlights the powers
Steele once attributed to Betterton’s moving, speaking body in life but now invests in the stillness of his corpse. That is the power of summoning an imagined community into being. The hailing of the “Free­born,” in their role as enthusiasts
for enactments of “what is great and noble in Human Nature” by those who “speak justly, and move gracefully”
(2:422-23), is piquantly juxtaposed to the critique of social and musical cacophony in the immediately preceding
number of The Tatler, which ends with an unfavorable allusion to “the Stamping Dances of the West Indians or
Hottencots”
(2:421).

Steele’s account of Betterton’s funeral demonstrates the importance of
 

---Page 17---
The Tatler and Spectator to the way in which I am trying to understand the role of performance in circum-Atlantic
memory. In Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983; rev.1991),
Benedict Anderson stresses the role of printed media in the vernacular, particularly the newspaper, in the formation of
modern national consciousness out of dynastic, feudal, and sacred communities (33-36). Like the obsequies
performed at tombs of the Unknown Soldier, which Anderson also highlights (9), the burial of an actor, a practitioner
of a despised profession, in the cathedral of English dynastic memory suggests a cultural use of marginal identities to
imagine a new kind of community. Attending such a ritual performance as a friend of the deceased, Steele the
pioneering journalist grasped—or created—its significance as national news.

Steele and Addison characteristically turned local performances into print, for circulation among an expanding
audience of readers, and then print into performances, for the edification of many more listeners who heard the papers read aloud in public places. The innovative effects of this form of orature have been convincingly demonstrated on one side of the Atlantic by Michael G. Ketcham in Transparent Designs: Reading, Performance, and Form in the
Spectator Papers
(1985) and on the other by Michael Warner in The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (1990). Reports of the authorial deaths of Addison and Steele
would seem to have been exaggerated (McCrea). Theater historians, however, attempting to reconstruct the acting of
Betterton and others from accounts in The Tatler and The Spectator, have excerpted and anthologized only the
choice descriptive passages concerning the stage. To a historian who views theater in the context of many kinds of
performance, such passages take on a more robust life when they are returned to their original place among the
wonderful peripatetic observations of the various restored behaviors of Augustan London.

The Everlasting Club

Addison and Steele report on walking in the city. By way of preliminary demonstration of my method, I will attempt
here to make a similar kind of report on New Orleans. Fortunately for me, no one will ever be able to say for sure
which of our hallucinations, theirs or mine, does the greatest injustice to the fabulous object of its incitement.
In his paper for Wednesday, May 23, 1711 (No. 72), Mr. Spectator continues
 

---Page 18---
his account of clubs, ancient and modern. Clubs, with their continuously renegotiated boundaries of exclusion,
exemplify the smaller atoms of affiliation through which larger societies may be constructed. Mr. Spectator reports on
the “surprising” constitution of one London club in particular, “the EVERLASTING CLUB.” This venerable
association never ceases to function, day or night, weekdays or holidays, all the days of the year, “no Party presuming
to rise till they are relieved by those who are in course to succeed them” (1:308-9). By this regimen no club member
ever need be without company at any hour, and the fire, tended by a trusty vestal, “burns from Generation to
Generation” (1:310). Continuity, the genial despot, reigns: “It is a Maxim in this Club that the Steward never dies; for
as they succeed one another by way of Rotation, no Man is to quit the great Elbow-chair which stands at the upper
End of the Table till his Successor is in a Readiness to fill it; insomuch that there has not been a Sede vacante in the
Memory of Man (1:309).” Individuals come and go, but the templatelike role of steward carries forward through time
the implacable integrity of the Everlasting Club: only the Great Fire of London caused a vacancy to occur in the
Elbow-chair, when Samaritans intervened to carry the protesting incumbent to safety.

Mardi Gras krewes and other New Orleanian social clubs operate along similar lines of self-perpetuating descent.
Like carnival itself, they promote a sense of timelessness based on the apparently seamless repetition of traditional
roles. Walking in the city on Mardi Gras day in 1991 afforded a spectacle of the convergence of two such roles: Rex,
King of Carnival, and his nemesis on that day, King Zulu, reigning monarch of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
Since 1872, interrupted only by war and police strikes, Rex has reigned annually over Mardi Gras as its perpetually
smiling Lord of Misrule. Traditionally chosen from the ranks of the city’s business elite centered around the exclusive
Boston Club, Rex shares power on his day of days with a queen selected annually from among society’s leading
debutantes. The symbolic mating of a nubile young girl with a middle­aged man wearing gold lame, rouge, and a false
beard, who, as it is always redundantly pointed out, is “old enough to be her father,” sets the tone for the intensely
endogamous fertility rites to follow (figure 1.2). These include an eye-filling float parade with masked riders showering
plastic beads on rapturous crowds of “subjects” and an elegant private ball for the inner circle of worthies.

Since 1909 members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club have likewise
 

---Page 19---


staged an annual float parade, featuring stereotypes of “Africans.” In addition to “King Zulu,” high officials in the
organization take on such personas as “The Big Shot of Africa,” “The Witch Doctor,” “Governor,” “Province Prince,” and “Ambassador” (figure 1.3). Originally known as the “The Tramps,” the working-class African Americans who
founded Zulu took their inspiration from a staged minstrel number, “There Never Was and Never Will Be a King Like Me” (Kinser, 233). They parade on Mardi Gras morning, using the same route along St. Charles Avenue that Rex
follows an hour or so later. They wear grass skirts and blackface laid on thick over an underlying layer of clown white
circling the eyes and mouth. In addition to plastic beads, Zulu members throw decorated coconuts, for many parade
goers the most highly prized “throw” of Mardi Gras. Every year there is a new Rex and a new King Zulu, and every
year they are supposed to look and act as they always have.

On Mardi Gras morning in 1991, however, King Zulu got a very late start, Rex refused to wait, and the two
parades collided. As a few of the

---Page 20---


floats ran parallel to each other along either side of St. Charles Avenue, in defiance of the carefully planned and
well-policed route schedule, the maskers I watched ignored each other, creating a gulf of silence between two
everlasting clubs, each the product of generations of de jure surrogation. Their silence intensified the imagery whereby
they performed their pasts in one another’s faces, a cruel hyperbolic mirror, but polarity did not constitute symmetry.
Behind the gestic speech acts of Rex stood the ambiguous tradition of the European carnivalesque, which might at
least appear to overthrow social authority momentarily (Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World) but which also might just
as well serve to conceal its ever more powerful reassertion under the mask of festivity (Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in
Romans
). Also behind Rex stood more than a century of white supremacist entitlement, the residue of what I will be
calling a genealogy of performance. Behind King Zulu there stood something much more complicated: a
deconstruction of that white genealogy and the veiled assertion of a clan­destine countermemory in its stead.
 
 

---Page 21---
To see how this semiotic tour de force works, the beholder must first understand that the members of both everlasting
clubs, Rex and Zulu, represent whiteness and perform whiteface minstrelsy. Rex speaks for himself: of his 1992
parade, entitled “Voyages of Discovery” in honor of the quin­centennial year, the King of Carnival stated, “We would
have had a black explorer, but we couldn’t find any” (quoted in Vennman, “Boundary Face-Off,” 76). Thus did Rex
in his own way—by performing a demean­ing comic stereotype of the white amnesiac—honor the memory of the
Haitian creole explorer, Jean-Baptiste Point Du Sable, in the city from which he most probably departed to found
Chicago (Bennett, 96-101). But the question remains as to why Zulu has walked such a thin line between ridiculing
and reinforcing the race-conscious imagery that Mardi Gras festivities perpetually reinvoke. Walking between the two
parades along the “neutral ground” of St. Charles Avenue, I thought the answer seemed plainly visible in the
performance: Zulu seizes on the annual occasion of the great festive holiday of Eurocentric tradition to make ribald fun
of white folks and the stupidity of their jury-rigged constructions of race (figures 1.4 and 1.5).

As the parades collided, Zulu’s bone-wielding “Witch Doctor” evoked the legends of cannibalism that permeate
accounts of circum-Atlantic encounters (Hulme, Jehlen), especially as they relate to the invention of Africa (Mudimbe). This Africa is the dystopia of racist fantasy, valuable as an antitype to help the xenophobic European tribes exaggerate distinctions among themselves: “Africa,” runs the tired old British slur on the French, “begins at Calais.” Introduced in
the decade after Plessy v. Ferguson, amid the triumph of Southern Redemption and its explosive mania about race,
King Zulu turns Rex not so much upside down as inside out. The white greasepaint under his blackface discloses an
acute reflexivity in the way that Zulu, laughing behind the mask of apparent self-deprecation, reproduces a kind of
Africa by mocking absurd Eurocentric stereotypes of divine kingship.

As whiteface minstrelsy, however, Zulu has layers within layers, and behind the visible mask of carnivalesque satire
there is a practice of disruptive humor that introduces another circum-Atlantic version of Africa. As a New Orleans
social aid and pleasure club, Zulu participates in the tradition of Afrocentric mutual aid and burial societies dating from
the colonial period, when people of African descent constituted the majority in New Orleans (as they do again today)
and when, as slaves and free people
 
 

---Page 22---


of color, they had developed resilient solidarities within their own castes and kinship networks. “New Orleans,”
according to Gwendolyn Midlo Hall in Africans in Colonial Louisiana, “was overwhelmingly black,” one factor
among several that made “Louisiana creole culture the most signif­icant source of Africanization of the entire culture of
the United States”(176, 157).

In the “Retentions and Survivals” chapter of their rigorous Birth of African-American Culture (1976), Sidney
Mintz and Richard Price caution that historical research has “reduced the number of convincing cases” of exact formal
retentions between Africa and the cultures of the New World. They also allow, however, that more general
continuities may be discerned by “the analysis of systems or patterns in their social contexts” (52). Since the famous
debate between Melville Herskovits and E. Franklin Frazier, the nature and extent of Africanisms in American culture
have defied settled
 
 

---Page 23---


conclusions, but the area of performance has produced some of the most compelling research. In After Africa
(1983), for example, Roger Abrahams and John Szwed discuss the African derivation of such popular performance
genres as cheerleading, baton twirling, and broken-field running in football, and in Abrahams’s classic Man-of-Words
in the West Indies: Performance and the Emergence of Creole Culture
(1983), there is a persuasive account of
the diasporic genesis of a particular kind of eloquence not unknown to Zulu maskers: “talking broad,” “talking sweet,”
and “talking nonsense.” It is widely accepted that in New Orleans concentrated forms of African music and dance
remained in the celebrated bamboulas of Congo Square and elsewhere until very late, with powerful, though
undocumentable, consequences for the development of jazz (Kmen). Comparative studies such as John Nunley and
Judith Bettelheim’s Caribbean Festival Arts: Each and Every Bit of Difference (1988) locate the festive traditions
of New Orleans in
 
 

---Page 24---
a network of circum-Caribbean forms. Scholarship along these lines tends to support my impression that in the
sardonic laughter of King Zulu there resonates a voice that cannot be accounted for by the comparatively crude
inversions of the European carnivalesque.

I believe that through the sophisticated disguises of diasporic memory, the Janus-faced Trickster figure erupts at Mardi Gras in the Zulu parade, reinventing an African cultural pattern in its New Orleanian social context. Embodying the
deconstructive spirit of Esu (Gates, The Signifying Monkey, 31-42), the Trickster turns the tables on the powerful
and emerges unscathed from the ensuing contretemps, confounding his adversary by dint of the dexterity with which he can reverse polarities: bad is good and white is black. In Domination and the Arts of Resistance, (1990), James C.
Scott identifies such a “hidden transcript” as one of the “Arts of Political Disguise” exemplified by the Jamaican slave
saying “Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick” (136—82). The Trickster in his New Orleanian manifestation did
not exist as such in Africa, but neither did “The Tramps” invent their traditions solely out of “There Never Was and
Never Will Be a King Like Me.” On the scene of the colliding parades in 1991, no one who looked to be in the know seemed to think that Zulu’s late departure was really an accident. Living on the tips of many tongues, performance
tradition, not scripted records, incorporates these supple ironies in the dignity and cunning of resistant memory.
Arriving at direction through indirection, talking big and smiling back, King Zulu lets Rex drink with gusto from the
deep bowl of racist laughter, but only after the Trickster has pissed in the soup.

Before going on to address the theoretical basis for what I am calling genealogies of performance, I want to
reemphasize an important conclusion drawn from walking in the city, listening to the orature, and reading the literature:
Trickster-Zulu is not an African retention but a circum­Atlantic reinvention. In his formation out of the linked
surrogations of a densely concentrated interculture, Zulu might very well have taken his present form without Esu per
se, but he certainly could not exist in the same way today without Rex, nor, it must be emphasized, could Rex exist in
the same way without Zulu.

The meaning of the comic effect that Addison achieves in his account of the Everlasting Club now comes into sharper
focus. Mr. Spectator takes his learned epigraph from the Georgics of Virgil; they emerge from John Dryden’s
translation thus:
 

---Page 25---

     Th’ immortal Line in sure Succession reigns, The Fortune of the Family remains:
     And Grandsires Grandsons the long List contains.
     (quoted in Spectator, 1:308 n)
 

Addison knows—and the white circles around the eyes and lips of King Zulu and his merry krewe playfully
confirm—that pristine descent in sure Succession” is no more plausible a fiction than that of the steward who never
dies or, it might be added, that of the purportedly foolproof lineages of European dynasties. Yet the illusion created by this fiction is so powerful and evidently so enduringly persuasive that specialists of each intellectual generation since the publication of Genealogy of Morals have had to reinvent Friedrich Nietzsche’s caustic demolition of origins in order
to make it their own.

Genealogies of Performance

As I hope my account of the impromptu concatenation of Rex and Zulu has suggested, genealogies of performance
document—and suspect—the historical transmission and dissemination of cultural practices through collective
representations. For this formulation, I am indebted to Jonathan Arac’s definition, applying Nietzsche and Foucault, of a “critical genealogy” that “aims to excavate the past that is necessary to account for how we got here and the past
that is useful for conceiving alternatives to our present condition” (2).Genealogies of performance take from Foucault’s seminal essay in Hommage à Jean Hyppolite (1971) the assurance that discontinuities rudely interrupt the succession of surrogates, who are themselves the scions of a dubious bloodline that leads the genealogist back to the moment of
apparent origin in order to discover what is and is not “behind things”: “not a timeless and essential secret, but the
secret that they have no essence or that their essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms...What is
found at the historical beginning of things is not the inviolable identity of their origin; it is the dissension of ocher things.
It is disparity” (Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 142).The practical experience of applying this principle
suggests that it is far more hortatory than nihilistic.

Genealogies of performance attend not only to “the body,” as Foucault suggests, but also to bodies—to the reciprocal reflections they make on one another’s surfaces as they foreground their capacities for interaction.
 
 

---Page 26---
Genealogies of performance also attend to “counter-memories,” or the disparities between history as it is discursively
transmitted and memory as it is publicly enacted by the bodies that bear its consequences. In the chapters that follow I will be applying three principles that govern the practices of memory and show how genealogies of performance may
be analyzed: kinesthetic imagination, vortices of behavior, and displaced transmission.

Performance genealogies draw on the idea of expressive movements as mnemonic reserves, including patterned
movements made and remembered by bodies, residual movements retained implicitly in images or words (or in the
silences between them), and imaginary movements dreamed in minds, not prior to language but constitutive of it, a
psychic rehearsal for physical actions drawn from a repertoire that culture provides. This repertoire has been defined
by the French historian Pierre Nora as “true memory,” which he finds in “gestures and habits, in skills passed down by unspoken traditions, in the body’s inherent self-knowledge, in unstudied reflexes and ingrained memories” (13). Nora
develops the idea of “places of memory” (lieux de mimo ire), the artificial sites of the modern production of national
and ethnic memory, in contrast to “environments of memory” (mileux de mémoire), the largely oral and corporeal
retentions of traditional cultures. Modernity is characterized as the replacement of environments of memory by places
of memory, such as archives, monuments, and theme parks: “moments of history torn away from the movement of
history, then returned; no longer quite life, not yet death, like shells on the shore when the sea of living memory has
receded” (12). “Living memory” remains variously resistant to this form of forgetting, however, through the
transmission of gestures, habits, and skills.

What Nora talks about here overlaps to a considerable degree with what Paul Connerton, in his suggestive book How Societies Remember (1989), describes as the “incorporating practice” of memory, which “is sedimented, or amassed, in the body” (72). Human agents draw on these resources of memory stored up (but also reinvented) in what I will
call, stretching an old term to fit my purpose, the kinesthetic imagination. In this I am inspired by the work of dance
historians on the transmission (and transformation) of memory through movement. Taking together the important work
of Mark Franko in Dance as Text: Ideologies of the Baroque Body (1993)and Susan Foster in Storying Bodies:
The Choreography of Narrative and Gender in the French Action Ballet
(forthcoming), for instance, shows how
ballet has disseminated, transmitted, and contested social and even political attitudes
 

---Page 27---
from the seventeenth century onward. Foster particularly demonstrates how the dance can indeed be separated from
the dancers as a transmittable form, a kinesthetic vocabulary, one that can move up and down the social scale as well
as from one generation to the next. She discloses the size of the stakes in such mileux de me’moire when she asks:
“Do not all records of human accomplishment document the motions of bodies?” The essays collected in Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg’s Cultural History of Gesture (1992)tend to answer Foster in the affirmative.

As a faculty of memory, the kinesthetic imagination exists interdependently but by no means coextensively with other
phenomena of social memory: written records, spoken narratives, architectural monuments, built environments. Along
with culturally specific affiliations such as family, religion, and class, these forms constitute what Maurice Halbwachs
calls “the social frameworks of memory” (38). The kinesthetic imagination, however, inhabits the realm of the virtual.
Its truth is the truth of simulation, of fantasy, or of daydreams, but its effect on human action may have material
consequences of the most tangible sort and of the widest scope. This faculty, which flourishes in that mental space
where imagination and memory converge, is a way of thinking through movements—at once remembered and
reinvented—the otherwise unthinkable, just as dance is often said to be a way of expressing the unspeakable. The
kinesthetic imagination exists to a high degree of concentration in performers, and its effects will be obvious in my
account of the public reception of exemplary histrionics, such as the mourning woman’s leap into the grave at her
grandmother’s funeral in Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s account of a creole funeral (chapter 2), Thomas Betterton’s acting of Shakespeare (chapter 3), the Mohawk Kiotseaeton’s handling of wampum strings at the Three Rivers treaty
(chapter 4), Agnes Robertson’s transformative embodiment of the title role of Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon
(chapter 5), or the carnival tableaux of the Mistick Krewe of Comus (chapter 6). But it also operates in the
performance of everyday life, consolidated by deeply ingrained habits and reinforced by paradigmatic systems of
behavioral memory such as law and custom. Kinesthetic imagination is not only an impetus and method for the
restoration of behavior but also a means of its imaginative expansion through those extensions of the range of bodily
movements and puissances that technological invention and specialized social organization can provide.

Technological invention (architectural innovation particularly) and social organization create what Nora calls “places”
or sites of memory—
 
 

---Page 28---
what I call vortices of behavior. Their function is to canalize specified needs, desires, and habits in order to reproduce
them. They frequently provide the crux in the semiotext of the circum-Atlantic cityscape—the grand boulevard, the
marketplace, the theater district, the square, the burial ground—where the gravitational pull of social necessity brings
audiences together and produces performers (candidates for surrogation) from their midst. As Marvin Carlson has
documented in Places of Performance: The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture (1989), the urban confluence of
pathways, borders, nodes, and landmarks favors the theatrical and the performative (10-11). The behavioral vortex of the cityscape, the “ludic space” in Roland Barthes’s propitious term, constitutes the collective, social version of the
psychological paradox that masquerade is the most powerful form of self-expression. The vortex is a kind of spatially
induced carnival, a center of cultural self-invention through the restoration of behavior. Into such maelstroms, the
magnetic forces of commerce and pleasure suck the willing and unwilling alike. Although such a zone or district seems
to offer a place for transgression, for things that couldn’t happen otherwise or elsewhere, in fact what it provides is far
more official: a place in which everyday practices and attitudes may be legitimated, “brought out into the open,”
reinforced, celebrated, or intensified. When this happens, what I will be calling condensational events result. The
principal characteristic of such events is that they gain a powerful enough hold on collective memory that they will
survive the transformation or the relocation of the spaces in which they first flourished.

In the circum-Atlantic cities of New Orleans and early eighteenth-century London, the behavioral vortices of which I
speak developed in market places (the Royal Exchange, the St. Louis Exchange), in the unofficially designated
auditoria of cultural self-enunciation (coffee and chocolate houses, opera boxes, Congo Square), in combined theater
and red-light districts (Drury Lane, Storyville), and in the newly invented urban cemeteries, which seem less surprising
as nominees for the category of “ludic space when one takes into account that the performances marking the rites of
passage from life to death represent some of the most elaborately staged occasions on which fictions of identity,
difference, and community come into play.

Displaced transmission constitutes the adaptation of historic practices to changing conditions, in which popular
behaviors are resituated in new locales. Much more happens through transmission by surrogacy than the
 
 

---Page 29---
reproduction of tradition. New traditions may also be invented and others overturned. The paradox of the restoration
of behavior resides in the phenomenon of repetition itself: no action or sequence of actions may be performed exactly
the same way twice; they must be reinvented or recreated at each appearance. In this improvisatorial behavioral
space, memory reveals itself as imagination. The African-American tradition of “signifyin(g),” for instance, as explained by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., with reference to Jelly Roll Morton’s stomp variation on Scott Joplin’s rag (63-88), and
applied as repetition with revision” to Yoruba ritual by Margaret Thompson Drewal (4-5), illuminates the theoretical
and practical possibilities of restored behavior not merely as the recapitulation but as the transformation of experience
through the displacement of its cultural forms.

Improvisation may even erupt into forms as ostensibly conservative as ritual. In her study of the dynamism, play,
and agency of Yoruba etutu, Drewal contests what she terms “the dominant notion in scholarly discourse that ritual
repetition is rigid, stereotypic, conventional, conservative, invariant, uniform, redundant, predictable, and structurally
static” (xiv). What she describes in the dynamic performance practices of Yorubaland complements Renato Rosaldo’s general assertion in Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (1989; rev. 1993) that ritual most often
resembles “a busy intersection” in which unanticipated or novel junctures may occur. “In contrast with the classic
view,” Rosaldo writes, “which posits culture as a self-contained whole made up of coherent patterns, culture can
arguably be conceived as a more porous array of intersections where distinct processes crisscross from within and
beyond its borders” (20). The characteristically performative circum-Atlantic image of the busy intersection evokes
what I am calling the behavioral vortex where cultural transmission may be detoured, deflected, or displaced. The arc
of memory suggested here, a trajectory launched by sustained contact and exchange among the peoples of the Atlantic world, is charted by accounts of improvisation ranging from Stephen Greenblatt’s in Renaissance Self Fashioning:
From More to Shakespeare
(1980) to Paul Berliner’s in Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of lmprovisation
(1994). The spirit of syncretism and bricolage inherent in such Inventive displacements finds an elegant summation in
Franz Kafka’s parable, a vivid instance of the derivation of essence from the serendipitous Copulation of alien forms:
“Leopards break into the temple and drink the Sacrificial chalices dry; this occurs repeatedly, again and again: finally it can be reckoned on beforehand and becomes part of the ceremony” (quoted in
 

---30---
States, 40; cf. Kertzer). Describing the subversive paradox of memory as performance—that repetition is
change—Peggy Phelan, in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (1993), speaks of the possibility of
“representation without reproduction” (3; cf. Michie). I argue in the following chapters that this possibility becomes an
inevitability under historic conditions of whole­sale surrogation: careless acolytes leave the temple gates ajar; leopards
work up powerful thirsts; and, for good or ill, the befuddled celebrants come to embrace desperate contingencies as
timeless essentials.

A genealogy of performance for the circum-Atlantic world is, therefore, an intricate unraveling of the putative
seamlessness of origins. It is at once a map of diasporic diffusions in space and a speculation on the synthesis and
mutation of traditions through time (Boyarin). Behind this notion of specific continuities and ruptures operates a more
general conception (if any conception can be more general than a performance genealogy for an oceanic interculture).
That generality, if I may be allowed it, goes something like this: what I am calling the circum-Atlantic world was itself a vast behavioral vortex, the forces of which created certain characteristic patterns that continue to influence values and
practices still extant today. Admittedly, another body of evidence, drawn from different sites or from the same sites at
different times, would have yielded other priorities—very different ones, perhaps, but I suspect not wholly different.
That is so, I am arguing, because the mutually interdependent performances of circum-Atlantic memory remain visible,
audible, and kinesthetically palpable to those who walk in the cities along its historic rim.

The status of the evidence required to reconstruct performances depends on the success of two necessarily
problematic procedures—spectating and tattling. This is not a disclaimer. Often the best hedge against amnesia is
gossip, a claim that the following juicy tidbit might serve to clarify. In The Spectator, no. 80 (Friday, June 1,
1711),obviously a slow news day, Addison recounts the tale of Phillis and Brunetta, “two Rivals for the Reputation of
Beauty” (1:343).Vying with one another for the attentions of the marriageable bachelors in London, both succeed after an intense campaign, waged with beautiful gowns and strategic flirtations, in marrying wealthy West Indian sugar
planters, next-door neighbors in Barbados, whither the newlyweds sail. Once there, the jealousy of Phillis and
Brunetta escalates with every provincial ball. The former seems to steal a march on the latter, Addison relates, when a
ship from London arrives carrying “a Brocade more gorgeous and costly than had ever before appeared in that
Latitude.” Phillis, the
 

---31---
consignee, gloats and preens. Brunetta fumes and rages until a remnant of the dreaded brocade falls into her hands:
she then appears at the “publick Ball in a plain black Silk Mantua, attended by a beautiful Negro Girl in a Petticoat of
the same Brocade with which Phillis was attired.” Phillis swoons. She then flees the ball in chagrined despair, to
depart the West Indies forever on the next ship home (1:344).

Many things could be said about Addison’s misogynistic anecdote: that its semiosis of conspicuous consumption
recapitulates the triangular trade in material goods and human flesh, for instance, or that women and their erotic
ornaments come to symbolize and embody the astonishing superabundance created (and then maldistributed) by such
circum-Atlantic argosies. These possibilities, including the role of women’s clothed and unclothed bodies as
commodified signifiers of abundance and fecundity, will be taken up elsewhere. For the moment, however, there is
one salient point to consider: the tale’s meaning as gossip can flourish only in a particular kind of world, one in which
racial surrogation operates as a potent social threat. In their performance of everyday life, the transoceanic
micropolitics of rival pulchritudes, Phillis and Brunetta require the strategic availability of “a beautiful Negro Girl.” They need a cameo appearance from her to tip the balance and bring their hateful little revenge comedy to its
mock-catastrophic end. To perform as protagonists of gendered whiteness they must rely on an unnamed black
antagonist, who, like millions of indispensable actors in the dramas of the circum-Atlantic world, remains forgotten but
not gone.