Please join the Chicago Film Seminar at 6:30 pm on Thursday, January 19 to welcome Miriam Petty (Northwestern) for her talk, "A Dance with Uncle Billy: Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and African American Children's Spectatorship." Karen Bowdre (Indiana) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.
Thursday, January 19 at 6:30pm
Miriam Petty, Northwestern
"A Dance with Uncle Billy: Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and African American Children's Spectatorship"
Respondent: Karen Bowdre, Indiana
Petty describes her talk as follows:
My paper uses celebrated tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and his cinematic relationship with child star Shirley Temple as the springboard for an examination of African American children’s spectatorship in the 1930s and early 40s. Relying on a variety of autobiography, memoir and personal essay as the work’s source material, I argue that the stories of the authors’ childhood moviegoing experiences complicate accepted theories of the African American viewer as "resistant" and "oppositional." These personal accounts challenge and dimensionalize such theorizing in important ways. In them, we find Black children spectators who are willing to identify and fantasize across the boundaries of race in addition to, or even instead of a "resistant" posture. The viewing and identificatory practices of Black children revealed in these accounts also emphasize the importance of context, and point toward the impact that segregated venues made upon the African American viewing experience in the classical cinema era.