Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface
Oxford University Press 2017
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in ArchitectureNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in DanceNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in LanguageNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 25, 2019 Lee Pierce
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.