New world drama: The performative commons in the Atlantic world, 1649-1849
New Books in Latin American Studies - 03/23/2015
Riots, audiences on stage, fabulous costumes, gripping stories. That’s what theater was like in the Atlantic world in the age of slavery and colonialism. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon wonderful book New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849 (Duke University Press, 2014) vividly invokes a transatlantic network of performances and their publics, and argues for the making of a performative commons that worked out tensions among societies bent on simultaneously profiting from, and negating the existence of, enslaved Africans and indigenous people. They did this in part through a tradition of dramatizing those very tensions on stage. The book is full of stories of how the riotous multitude witnessed and interacted with those performances, as plays, actors, music, and costumes made their way around the colonial Atlantic world.