On this episode of the New Books Network, Dr. Lee Pierce
(she/they)--Asst. Prof. of Rhetoric at SUNY Geneseo--interviews Dr. Anne Cheng
(she/hers)--Professor of English and Director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University--to discuss an inimitable work of critique: Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface
(Oxford University Press, 2017). Moving fluidly and with suspense through Baker’s performances, personal journals, museums, architectural designs, and the lyrics of Cole Porter--to name a few--Cheng draws on the oft-studied but little considered Josephine Baker as a figure of articulation for the nuanced contradictions of primitivism, modernism, and theory. Through Baker, Cheng invites us to reconsider the mutual imbrication of object/subject, surface/depth, and exploitation/fascination. Cheng’s careful eye and beautiful command of texture illustrates that dissolving Baker into pure particularity--into pure surface--is the best way to capture her unique agency.