Nicholas R. Jones
’s book, Staging Habla de Negros: Radical Performance of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain
(Pennsylvania State University Press, 2019), analyzes white appropriations of black African voices in Spanish theater in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, when performing habla de negros
—how Africanized Castilian was commonly referred to—was in fashion. Jones problematizes long-held beliefs among literary critics and linguists that habla de negros
as represented in dominant Spanish literature was exclusively racist sterotypes, and instead seeks to theorize habla de negros
as a radical performance that “allow[s] black expression and black sensibilities to emerge whether there are black bodies present or not.” This elegant book demonstrates that black voices, speakers, bodies, subjects, were visible, present, and constitutive parts of the early modern Castilian soundscape and society and succeeds in drawing modern readers’ attention to their importance. By centering black historical and literary figures, Jones shows how black populations of early modern Spain participated in the formation of Black experience beyond Brazil, the Caribbean and the United States.
Elizabeth Spragins is assistant professor of Spanish at the College of the Holy Cross. Her current book project is on corpses in early modern Mediterranean narrative. You can follow her on Twitter @elspragins.