Performances, Archives and Repertories in the Francophone Circum-Atlantic World

Performances, Archives and Repertories
in the Francophone Circum-Atlantic World

October 29 & 30, 2015
Tulane University, Historic New Orleans Collection
New Orleans, Louisiana

This workshop brings together seven accomplished scholars from France, Canada, and the U.S. to focus on new projects and methods for approaching the history of performance in the Francophone Circum-Atlantic world. We understand performance in the broadest sense, and our invited participants study the full range from traditional theatrical performance to social and street dancing, Mardi Gras masking and parading, and performances of race and gender in everyday life, in New Orleans and French/Francophone, Metropolitan and colonial contexts.

Participants will share current work that speaks to what archives can lend to the definition and practices surrounding minority identity, the performances of gendered and raced identity on stage and in the streets, and the kinds of archives available in New Orleans as well as abroad that can help us apprehend such performances.  As historians of theater and dance, of culture and carnival (from late 17th-mid-19th century), relying on texts of law, notarial records, police archives, as well as theater and museum collections, participants seek to share with their colleagues, students and a broader public their knowledge of how to look and where to find interesting new material on these continually engaging questions. 

As historians of theater and dance, of culture and carnival (from late 17th-mid-19th century), relying on texts of law, notarial records, police archives, as well as theater and museum collections, participants seek to share their knowledge of the kinds of archives available in New Orleans as well as abroad that can help us apprehend such performances.


Christian Biet is Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Head of the Research Center on the History of Art and Representation at Nanterre,  and senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France, in Theater, Law and Literature.  His recent work includes the monographs Law and Literature under the Ancien Régime (2002), I, Pierre Corneille (2006) and two anthologies, Martyr Tragedies and Narratives in France and French Theater of the Seventeenth-Century (both 2009) and, only counting since 2004, over a hundred articles.  Current projects include the Comédie-Française Registers Project in cooperation with MIT’s digital humanities unit, Hyperstudio.

Elizabeth Claire is a historian in the History Section (CRH) of the the French National Research Center CNRS, a founder of the Atelier d’histoire culturelle de la danse (EHESS) and an associate member of the Centre de recherches sur les Arts et le Langage (CRAL).  Elizabeth holds the PhD in Performance Studies from New York University and, since 2009, co-directs the seminar« Histoire culturelle de la danse » at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris). She held post-doctoral fellowships at CRAL, at the Centre Edgar Morin (CETSAH), and at the  Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Nord. Her research and articles treat the intersection of medical and social texts on dance, medical notions of the female imagination, and on the status of women as performers and creators in Europe and the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her archival research is focused on representations of race and gender in social dancing of the circum-Atlantic in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Laurent Dubois is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History, Duke University.  Dubois is a specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world, with a focus on the Caribbean and particularly Haiti. He is the faculty director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University, and writes for magazines including the New Republic, Sports Illustrated, and the New Yorker. He is an award-winning scholar of Haiti, the author of nine books and edited collections, including Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (2012) and Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004). His current research and writing focuses on the Afro-Atlantic history of the banjo and he is currently completing a book (under contract with Harvard University Press) on the topic. He is the recipient of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship, a National Humanities Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship to support this work. His website, Banjology, is a well-known resource for historians of banjo performance and showcases the use of archives in the history of Circum-Atlantic performance.

Karen Leathem is Museum Historian at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, where she is the senior staff member on all exhibition teams.  A PhD in American history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, she has developed several major exhibits on aspects of performance for the museum, including the museum’s permanent exhibit, Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana (2000).  Other performance-related exhibits include “They Call Me Baby Doll”: A Mardi Gras Tradition (2013); Preservation Hall at 50 (2011); Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock ’n’ Roll (2009); Experiencing Louisiana: Discovering the Soul of America (2006). She is currently overseeing development of a pioneering permanent exhibit on Louisiana music.  Dr. Leathem is co-editor of the collected volume, The American South in the Twentieth Century University of Georgia Press, 2005) and author of “Women on Display: The Gendered Meanings of Carnival in New Orleans, 1870–1900,” Locus 5 (fall 1992): 1–18. 

Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, Professeur agrégé at Sherbrooke University in Canada, is an historian of Louisiana, the Caribbean, and slavery. He is the author of L’armée indigene (2014) on the defeat of Napoleon in Haiti, as well as forthcoming monographs on slavery and marronage, numerous edited collections and articles.  He co-directed a summer institute on the history of Louisiana on our campus in 2012, in addition to delivering a lecture, ” ‘To the Beat of Drums’ : The Music of Slave Resistance in New Orleans, 1811-1830,” in a colloquium co-organized by l’EHESS, Tulane University and l’Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar. His new project focuses on the police archives of New Orleans and the link between arrests on record and street performances in the city in the 19th century.

Felipe Smith , Associate Professor, Department of English at Tulane University, is the author of American Body Politics, Race, Gender and Black Literary Renaissance and co-editor of Global Circuits of Blackness.  He is working on carnival in New Orleans and in 2013 published “Things You’d Imagine Zulu Tribes to do: The Zulu Parade in New Orleans Carnival” (African Arts 42).


Emily Clark is Clement Chambers Benenson Professor in Colonial History at Tulane University.  She is the author four books and edited collections, including The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (2013) and the multiple award-winning Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society: 1727-1834 (2007).  She is currently editing, with Cécile Vidal and Ibrahima Thioub, a collected volume on the connected and comparative histories of New Orleans and Saint-Louis, Senegal, which includes several essays on the history of performance in the Francophone Circum-Atlantic.  She is a member of the New Orleans Digital Humanities Consortium.

Felicia McCarren is the author of Dance Pathologies: Performance, Poetics, Medicine (1998) and Dancing Machines: Choreographies of the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2003) both from Stanford University Press.  Her new book, French Moves; The Cultural Politics of le hip hop (Oxford, 2013) exploring the urban dance of minorities in France, was awarded the 2014 De la Torre Bueno Prize, and the Outstanding Publication of the Year 2014 from the Congress on Research in Dance.
She is Professor of French at Tulane, a member of the faculty in Film Studies, and a member of the Paris-based seminar« Histoire culturelle de la danse »

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