The published articles and essays available here fall into four broad categories. The first category rehearses methodological ideas that were subsequently fully developed in Scripts of Blackness—ideas concerning historiographic methods (“Off the Record”) and the widening of PCRS’s critical sensorium (“‘Come Aloft, Jack-Little-Ape’”). The second category explores in detail the fascinating transnational circulation of specific racial tropes or texts that Ndiaye could not fully develop in Scripts of Blackness such as the blackfaced character of the African ambassador moving between Madrid and Paris in “The African Ambassadors’ Travels,” or Heliodorus’s Ethiopian Story moving between France and England in “’Everyone Breeds in His Own Image,’” and Bandello’s novelle, which follow the same route in “Aaron’s Roots.” In each case, she shows how this specific instance of transnational circulation participated in the emergence of new racial habits of mind.
The third category clarifies key concepts often misused in Premodern Critical Race Studies (PCRS), namely “ethnicity” (“Race and Ethnicity”) and “globalization” (“Race, Capitalism, and Globalization in Titus Andronicus”). The fourth and last category serves as a platform for Ndiaye, as a Black Frenchwoman, to call for French Studies’ embrace of PCRS, either by writing about race in French baroque culture (“Rewriting the Grand Siècle”), by doing so in French and in Open Access (“Le corps de la nation”), or by extending my thinking on race and performance into the active terrain of contemporary French theatre (“Theater of the Mothers”).
“I love writing articles and essays to develop new ideas. Some of those ideas and readings find their way into my books, but many do not, though they might be some of my best work. They live their own lives. And I hope they find their way to readers.”
“Le corps de la nation: Eros, théâtre, et racialisation au Grand-Siècle”
Thaêtre, Chantier #6: Baroque is burning! (2022). Web. 7,000 words
ABSTRACT: In this article, Ndiaye uses the long arc of anti-Blackness in the erotic dynamics of baroque and neoclassical French performance culture to illuminate some of the bold counter-interpretive moves and aesthetic choices made by choreographer Bintou Dembélé and director Clément Cogitore in their landmark 2019 production of Les Indes Galantes (1735) by Rameau and Fuzelier at the Opéra Bastille.
“Rewriting the Grand Siècle: Blackface in Early Modern France and the Historiography of Race”
Literature Compass 18.10 (2021). 7,000 words
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye critiques the French cultural aversion to racial thinking which has resulted in the absence of race as a theme and analytic in French historiographic practices, especially in relation to the ancien régime. This essay argues that focusing on 17th century theater and performance culture, especially on baroque ballets and their oblique representations of Blackness and slavery through blackface, reveals a long national history of racism against Black people. This essay is a call to rewrite as an age of race‐ making a period often construed as a cultural and literary golden age that still plays a central role in definitions of French heritage and identity today.
“‘Come Aloft, Jack-Little-Ape’: Race and Dance in The Spanish Gypsie”
English Literary Renaissance 51.1 (2021): 121-151. 13,000 words
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye posits that, on the early modern stage, dance was a powerful communicative modality which performed racializing work. Focusing on The Spanish Gypsie (1623), she argues that Middleton, Rowley, Ford, and Dekker’s play innovatively deployed around Gypsy characters an animalizing choreographic discourse called “antics.” That discourse, given the early modern understanding and uses of dance, had the ability to downgrade its dancers in the Great Chain of being by kinetic means long before the development in the Enlightenment of the racist taxonomic systems with which we usually associate such downgradings. Ultimately, the essay brings to light the relational logic of early modern theatrical racecraft by tracing the popular extension of that new animalizing choreographic device to another ethnic group in the repertory of The Queen of Bohemia’s Men from 1623 to 1642: Blackamoors —who were similarly
entangled in the processes of exclusion from ownership and self-ownership at play in the rhetoric of animalization, both on stage and off stage.
“‘Everyone Breeds in His Own Image’: Staging the Aethiopica across the Channel”
Renaissance Drama 44: 2 (2016): 157-186. 13,000 words
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye argues that stage adaptations of Heliodorus’s The Aethiopian Story were a major site for the reconfiguration of blackness as a racial paradigm in early modern France, and she examines the influence of that French theatrical discourse over English Caroline drama. She shows that several French playwrights across the Channel rework the Aethiopica in ways that question the chromatic fluidity of human skin in the Greek novel and manifest the pull of heredity in the context of an incipient early modern racialization of blackness. Giving credit to Henrietta Maria as transnational cultural agent, Ndiaye traces the influence of the French Heliodoric trend onto English theatrical culture and argues that the Aethiopica became on stage a vehicle for thinking through the urgent issues of blackness and race.
“Aaron’s Roots: Spaniards, Englishmen, and Blackamoors in Titus Andronicus”
Early Theatre 19: 2 (2016): 59-80. 9,000 words
ABSTRACT: Focusing on the play’s genealogy and repeated allusions to the Black Legend, this article recovers the long-neglected Spanish dimension of Gothic identity in Titus Andronicus, and it reconsiders the racial discourse of the play in the light of this information. Ndiaye argues that, within an analogical setup associating Goths with Spaniards and Romans with Englishmen, the play registers attempts at intellectual emancipation: attempts at thinking through the topical question of the black African presence in 1590’s England on English terms -- outside of the older Iberian conceptual frameworks with which black Africans had long been associated.
“Race and Ethnicity: Conceptual Knots in Early Modern Culture,”
The Cultural History of Race in the Reformation and Enlightenment, 1550-1760 (Vol. 4), Nicholas Hudson ed., Marius Turda general ed., 111-126. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2021. 9,000 words
ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to disentangle the often conflated notions of race and ethnicity in the early modern world, with a particular focus on sixteenth and seventeenth century English, French, and Spanish cultures. Ndiaye reads the messy entanglement of race and nation as a dialectical movement and argues that, in early modern Europe, a crucial reason why the old and powerful logic of the nation, which, in theory, should have halted the spread of racial thinking along new paradigmatic lines proved so weak to do so in practice, is that the racial matrix was simply too good at helping performative nations negotiate their own boundaries strategically at specific junctures to be stopped in a meaningful way. The usefulness of racial thinking in the process of nation building ensured that the new racial paradigm became a key feature of early modern epistemes of identity. Because the imbrication of the nation/race antithesis within dynamics of strategic power play is particularly palpable in the powerful media that was theatre, Ndiaye supports her thesis with close readings from Tirso de Molina, Shakespeare, and Molière, among other early modern primary sources.
“Race, Capitalism, and Globalization in Titus Andronicus”
The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race, edited by Ayanna Thompson, 158-174. Cambridge University Press, 2021. 7,000 words
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye unpacks the strategic role of race in Titus Andronicus and brings to light the play’s earnest representation of racism’s entanglement in the demands of the global capitalist project born in Shakespeare’s time. Titus Andronicus dreams of London as a cosmopolitan capital with imperial aspirations in a proto-colonial world-economy. In the possible futures that the play dreams up for England, prescribing the most profitable forms of inter-cultural trafficking is a priority. The smart device used for establishing such prescriptions is called race. The racial regime ushered by early modern globalization, triggered by colonization, and forged in the furnace of early capitalism, was predicated not upon the elimination of racialized others, but on their strategic and contingent inclusion at inferior ranks in a hierarchical multicultural society. Titus Andronicus dramatizes the push and pull between the exclusion and inclusion of racialized Others necessary to the growth of early modern world-economies.
“Off the Record: Contrapuntal Theatre History”
Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography, Tracy C. Davis and Peter W. Marx, eds., 229-248. New York: Routledge, 2021. 11,000 words.
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye hypothesizes the existence of a tradition of timbral impersonation of blackness across early-modern European performance culture, and she explores the methodological difficulties and ethical pressures faced by historiographic attempts at reclaiming that acousmatic facet of the early-modern culture of racialization in our particular day and age. She argues that theatre historians must, consciously and transparently, position themselves on the spectrum of openness to methodologies of historical reclamation induced by the revisionist turn. She proposes a new model of historiographic practice called “recording.” That model, which takes seriously the conceptually fertile polysemy of the word “record” in the early-modern period, aims at enabling theatre and performance historians to navigate those difficulties without abdicating their projects of reclamation. Ultimately, she illustrates the purchase of that historiographic model by using it as a lens to re-read Barbary’s song in Othello.
“Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie NDiaye”
In Women Mobilizing Memory: Arts of Intervention, edited by Soledad Falabella, Marianne Hirsch, Jean E. Howard, Banu Karaca, 363-380. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. 8,000 words
ABSTRACT: This essay explores Marie NDiaye’s reflections on political theater in Providence (2001), Les Serpents [Snakes] (2005), and Les Grandes Personnes [The Grown-Ups] (2011). Those plays are haunted by the common motif of often racialized sacrificial Mothers who seek forgiveness for horrendous crimes committed against their children, in which they participated or feel that they participated. Only cathartic rituals will relieve them of their traumatic memories and of guilt long after the fact. This quest, however, opposes them to a tight-knit civic community always recognizable as an instantiation of the French nation: the community always had a hand in the crimes for which each Mother seeks atonement, but, unlike the Mothers, it refuses to remember or acknowledge those crimes, and ultimately destroys the scapegoated Mothers. Ndiaye argues that, within NDiaye’s critique of patriarchal forces, the motif of sacrificial Mothers also interrogates the role of political theater itself. Indeed, the particularly theatrical nature of the rituals devised by the Mothers turns them into mises-en-abîme of theater. This essay thus brings to light the conditions under which, NDiaye’s plays suggest, theater be a reparative process for victims on stage and off.
“The African Ambassadors’ Travels: Playing Black in Late Seventeenth Century France and Spain”
In Transnational Connections in Early Modern Theatre, edited by M.A. Katritzky and Pavel Drábek, 73-85. Manchester University Press, 2020. 6,000 words
ABSTRACT: Ndiaye examines the emergence and significance of the theatergram of the African Ambassador in 1660s French theatre, in plays like Le Mort Vivant, by Edmé Boursault (1662), L’Ambassadeur d’Affrique, by Du Perche (1666), Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière (1670), and Le Mariage de la reine de Monomotapa by Bel-Isle (1682). Reading this theatergram in conversation with contemporary policies in the French Caribbean colonies, she argues that African ambassadors on stage contributed to the development and dissemination of a solidifying racial discourse in late seventeenth-century France. Ultimately, this essay promotes the integration of transnational foci and comparative methods into early modern race studies.
Queer Velocities: Time, Sex, and Biopower on the Early Modern Stage
by Jennifer Eun-Jung Row. Reviewed for Critical Inquiry. (September 2022)
Staging Habla de Negros: Radical Performances of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain
by Nicholas R. Jones. Reviewed for Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 21:1 (2020). 135-137.
Black Tudors, The Untold Story
by Miranda Kaufmann. Reviewed for Shakespeare Quarterly 69:4 (2019). 263-266.
Anti-Black Racism in Early Modern English Drama
by Matthieu Chapman. Reviewed for Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 32 (2019). 253-256.
Oroonoko, prince et esclave. Roman colonial de l’incertitude
by Jean-Frédéric Schaub. Reviewed for La Vie des Idées (2008). Web.
Two-part Interview: “On Two Important Exhibitions Devoted to African Diasporas During the Slave Trades”
co-written with Jean-Philippe Dedieu. Web. Africa Is a Country (2014).
“On the Uses of Cruelty”
Essay in the playbill for Othello, directed by Charles Newell and Gabrielle Randle-Bent. Court Theatre, Chicago, Fall 2021. 1,000 words.
“Pericles and Us”
Essay in the playbill for Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directed by Kent Gash. Red Bull Theatre, New York City, Fall 2021. 500 words.
“Black Roma: Afro-Romani Connections in Early Modern Drama (and Beyond)”
Renaissance Quarterly 75.4.15,000 words. Forthcoming (Winter 2023)
“‘Read it for restoratives’: Pericles and the Romance of Whiteness”
Early Theatre 26.1. 6,000 words. Forthcoming (Spring 2023)
I edited the anniversary issue “1623-2023: The First Folio Unbound”
of Shakespeare Quarterly. Forthcoming (Fall 2023).