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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Between Duty and Romance: The Attraction of Sounding “Black” in Paris

  • Author(s): Wilson, Anndretta Lyle
  • et al.

The histories of Black Americans who significantly influenced French life and culture in Paris are hardly marked or visible across the most frequented tourist destinations or within state-sponsored museums dedicated to national history. Instead, certain tourist-oriented live performances constitute audible monuments to Black soldiers and musicians. Audible monuments are sound objects constructed through live orature, collective participation, or sound-producing movements that recall history and memory for the purpose of witness engagement or tourist consumption. Toward a critical analysis grounded in performance studies theory this essay first replays and reinterprets the music and military histories shared between African-descended US soldiers and the nation of France as a gendered and misaligned romance, and then suggests how performance events like the tours of “Black Paris” can rehearse that romance and then rupture it by a contemporary African presence.


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