Cover image for Staging Habla de Negros: Radical Performances of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain By Nicholas R. Jones

Staging Habla de Negros

Radical Performances of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain

Nicholas R. Jones

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$89.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08346-9

$34.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08347-6
Coming in May

248 pages
6" × 9"
15 b&w illustrations
2019

Iberian Encounter and Exchange, 475–1755

Staging Habla de Negros

Radical Performances of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain

Nicholas R. Jones

“A crucial intervention in discussions about black Africans in Renaissance Europe. Focusing specifically on early modern Spain, Jones offers insightful and nuanced readings of the ways in which (mostly) white Spanish writers appropriated black speech in staged performances and poetry, arguing that such appropriations actually encode black African agency. Importantly, he decenters the author and asks readers to approach these literary forms from the margin to understand how forces beyond the author influence text formation. Jones’s careful, against-the-grain readings open up to readers new archives (and re-present familiar ones from fresh, intriguing perspectives) for the study of black cultural experiences in the Renaissance era.”

 

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In this volume, Nicholas R. Jones analyzes white appropriations of black African voices in Spanish theater from the 1500s through the 1700s, when the performance of Africanized Castilian, commonly referred to as habla de negros (black speech), was in vogue.

Focusing on Spanish Golden Age theater and performative poetry from authors such as Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Rueda, and Rodrigo de Reinosa, Jones makes a strong case for revising the belief, long held by literary critics and linguists, that white appropriations and representations of habla de negros language are “racist buffoonery” or stereotype. Instead, Jones shows black characters who laugh, sing, and shout, ultimately combating the violent desire of white supremacy. By placing early modern Iberia in conversation with discourses on African diaspora studies, Jones showcases how black Africans and their descendants who built communities in early modern Spain were rendered legible in performative literary texts.

Accessibly written and theoretically sophisticated, Jones’s groundbreaking study elucidates the ways that habla de negros animated black Africans’ agency, empowered their resistance, and highlighted their African cultural retentions. This must-read book on identity building, performance, and race will captivate audiences across disciplines.

“A crucial intervention in discussions about black Africans in Renaissance Europe. Focusing specifically on early modern Spain, Jones offers insightful and nuanced readings of the ways in which (mostly) white Spanish writers appropriated black speech in staged performances and poetry, arguing that such appropriations actually encode black African agency. Importantly, he decenters the author and asks readers to approach these literary forms from the margin to understand how forces beyond the author influence text formation. Jones’s careful, against-the-grain readings open up to readers new archives (and re-present familiar ones from fresh, intriguing perspectives) for the study of black cultural experiences in the Renaissance era.”
“Nicholas R. Jones reveals new worlds in this exploration of the black African diaspora in early modern Iberia. Deftly combining literary analysis, performance studies, and diaspora studies, Jones demonstrates how representations of ‘black speech’ document African voices of agency, presence, and resistance as African identities were boldly formed at the heart of Iberian culture. These lively and critically imaginative arguments are destined to become standard points of reference for years to come.”
“Nicholas Jones makes a necessary and nuanced argument that black folks will always hack the systems of oppression and eagerly make use of whatever agency they can acquire to subvert and chip away at anti-blackness. Jones uses the theories of Audre Lorde, Zora Neale Hurston, and Daphne Brooks to demonstrate how heretofore undertheorized characters in habla de negros texts revel in black joy through artful expressions and speech acts steeped in an Africaneity that Iberian Studies can no longer deny.”
“This compelling study offers many fresh insights into the literary reception of African-Iberian speech performance and recovers depictions that previous scholarship derided as hopelessly biased or monologic. It utilizes these depictions to read not just the formation of early modern black subjectivities but also the role they played in defining the hegemonic order under which these were crafted and codified. Jones directs critical attention to multiple stagings of subaltern performance by Blacks, Africans, and Ibero-Africans as well as their instrumental roles in the formation of early modern global empires.”

Nicholas R. Jones is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Bucknell University.