African diaspora drama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In an anthology of criticism about African American theatre, an essay about African Diaspora drama may initially seem out of place because many of the authors and plays that can be grouped under this heading originate from and concern life outside the United States. Yet the inclusion is appropriate, for self-identification as black has always exceeded the nation-state. While the Jamaican born, Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay lamented that his “long-suffering race … denied a human place” both in the “Christian West” and on the African Continent had, in fact, “no home on earth,” “enslaved” people of African descent have sought to identify and create a home: that is, a material and psychic space where their worth is acknowledged. “Diaspora” has functioned as a concept that has allowed them to posit a space of nurturance in the world. Indeed, as I will demonstrate, many African American playwrights, theorists, and audiences have not only posited emotional and political links with non-US black populations but have also looked outside these geographical confines for aesthetic concepts to guide their construction of theatre. Despite a dehumanization that has persisted since the sixteenth-century establishment of the transatlantic slave trade, ideas concerning African or black solidarity have assumed many forms over historical time. Beginning with a review of ways in which the African Diaspora has been conceptualized, I propose several different categories of African Diaspora drama. The first two build upon the pioneering scholarship of W. E. B. Du Bois and Melville Herskovits, while the others reflect my own practices, developed over years of study and teaching. My objective is to identify ways in which similarity and difference – the paradoxical poles around which diaspora is enacted – have been articulated. I concentrate on written texts because up until relatively recently, these dramas circulated more easily than performers or videotape, and YouTube was non-existent. Though the African Diaspora is multilingual, this chapter concentrates on texts readily available in English.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to African American Theatre
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139062107
ISBN (Print)9781107017122
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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