Journal of Romance Studies

Josephine Baker and utopian visions of Black Paris

Journal of Romance Studies (2005), 5, (3), 33–50.

Abstract

Black Paris is a contested ideological terrain shaped by the social actors who constructed its landscape across diverse historical periods. Among the most prominent of these figures is the Franco-American performer Josephine Baker (1906–75), whose adaptation to France resembles a pilgrimage, a cathartic journey in which the artistic subject’s identity is transformed. This transformation relies on a series of nested narratives, including images of Black Paris, touristic symbols, and utopian visions of France. Although much recent scholarship about Baker focuses on the primal images of her early career as a performer between 1925 and 1935, her entire lifespan merits review, reflecting as it does the ways in which ‘Black Paris’ was constituted over a forty-year period. This article examines key transitions in Baker’s life, culminating with her utopian global village (village du monde). Her experiment with the ‘Rainbow Tribe’ used the family as a metaphor for a social movement with communal ideals. Baker’s plans for maintaining these utopian ideals as her twelve adopted Rainbow children grew older, as well as her 1965 blueprints for the College of Brotherhood, were hampered, however, by international surveillance of her career and her financial challenges. Baker’s Rainbow experiment and image-based politics proposed models of social justice and pedagogical change that may be re-examined for their contribution to the ideologies and practices of multiculturalism in Black Paris and, more broadly, in contemporary France.

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Fabre, Michel (1991) From Harlem to Paris: Black Writers in France, 1840–1980 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). From Harlem to Paris: Black Writers in France, 1840–1980 Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness Google Scholar

Hammond, Brian and Patrick O’Connor (1988) Josephine Baker (London: Jonathan Cape). Josephine Baker Google Scholar

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Hansen, Arlen J. (1990) Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s (New York: Little, Brown and Company). Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s Google Scholar

Hargreaves, Alec G. (1991) Voices from the North African Immigrant Community in France: Immigration and Identity in Beur Fiction (Oxford: Berg). Voices from the North African Immigrant Community in France: Immigration and Identity in Beur Fiction Google Scholar

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (1998) Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape Google Scholar

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Lemarchand, Henri and Francis Lopez (1953) ‘Dans mon village’, recorded in Germany by Pierre Dreuder and his orchestra, Bertelsmann (Paris: Éditions Salabert). Dans mon village Google Scholar

Lyon, Janet (2001) ‘Josephine Baker’s hothouse,’ in Modernism, Inc.: Body, Memory, Capital, ed. Jani Scandura and Michael Thurston (New York: New York University Press), 29–47. Josephine Baker’s hothouse Modernism, Inc.: Body, Memory, Capital 29 47 Google Scholar

Maffesoli, Michel (1988) Les Temps des tribus (Paris: Libraire des Méridiens Klincksieck). Les Temps des tribus Google Scholar

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Fabre, Michel Batouala: A True Black Novel (1972), trans. Barbara Beck and Alexandre Mboukou (Washington DC: Black Orpheus Press). Batouala: A True Black Novel Google Scholar

Martin, Denis-Constant (1992) ‘Du jazz band au zazous: l’invention du jazz français (1900–1945)’, paper presented at the African Americans and Europe Conference, Paris, Université de Paris III, 5–9 February. Du jazz band au zazous: l’invention du jazz français (1900–1945) Google Scholar

Moret, Frédéric (1992) ‘Images de Paris dans les guides touristiques en 1900’, Le Mouvement Social 160 (July-September), 79–98. Images de Paris dans les guides touristiques en 1900 Le Mouvement Social 160 79 98 Google Scholar

Papich, Stephen (1976) Remembering Josephine (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill). Remembering Josephine Google Scholar

Rose, Phyllis (1989) Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time (New York: Vintage Books). Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1948) ‘Orphée noir,’ in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, ed. Léopold Sédar Senghor (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France), ix-xliv; excerpted in Présence Africaine 1.6, 1st trimester (1949), 9–14. Orphée noir, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française 9 14 Google Scholar

Sauvage, Marcel (1927) Les Mémoires de Joséphine Baker (Paris: Éditions Kra). Les Mémoires de Joséphine Baker Google Scholar

Shack, William A. (2001) Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press). Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars Google Scholar

Schwartz, Vanessa R. (1995) ‘Museums and mass spectacle: the Musée Grévin as a monument to life’, French Historical Studies 19.1, 7–26. Museums and mass spectacle: the Musée Grévin as a monument to life French Historical Studies 19.1 7 26 Google Scholar

Stovall, Tyler (1996) Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (New York: Houghton Mifflin). Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light Google Scholar

Vincour, John (1970) ‘At 64, Josephine Baker looks at Black Power’, International Herald Tribune (August 31) (Paris: Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, file no. S.W 4754–1). At 64, Josephine Baker looks at Black Power International Herald Tribune Google Scholar

Wolff, Janet (1985) ‘The invisible flâneuse: women and the literature of modernity’, Theory, Culture, and Society 2.3, 37–46. The invisible flâneuse: women and the literature of modernity Theory, Culture, and Society 2.3 37 46 Google Scholar

Wood, Ean (2000) The Josephine Baker Story (London: Sanctuary Publishing). The Josephine Baker Story Google Scholar

Amselle, Jean-Loup (1996) Vers un multiculturalisme français: l’empire de la coutume (Paris: Aubier). Vers un multiculturalisme français: l’empire de la coutume Google Scholar

Baker, Jean-Claude and Chris Chase (1993) Josephine: The Hungry Heart (New York: Random House). Josephine: The Hungry Heart Google Scholar

Baker, Josephine with Jo Bouillon, illustrated by Piet Worm (1957) La Tribu arc-en-ciel (Paris: Opéra Mundi). La Tribu arc-en-ciel Google Scholar

Baker, Josephine and Jo Bouillon (1976) Joséphine (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont-Opéra Mundi). Joséphine Google Scholar

Baker, Josephine and Jo Bouillon (1977) Josephine, trans. Marianna Fitzpatrick (New York: Paragon House). Josephine Google Scholar

Baudrillard, Jean (1981) Simulacres et simulation (Paris: Éditions Galilée). Simulacres et simulation Google Scholar

Bonnal, Jean-Claude (1992) Joséphine Baker et le village des enfants du monde en Périgord (Le Bugue: PLB). Joséphine Baker et le village des enfants du monde en Périgord Google Scholar

Borshuk, Michael (2003) ‘“Queen of the Colonial Exposition”: Josephine Baker’s strategic performance’, in Critical Voicings of Black Liberation, ed. Kimberly L. Phillips, Hermine D. Pinson, Lorenzo Thomas and Hanna Wallinger (London: Transaction Publishers), 47–65. “Queen of the Colonial Exposition”: Josephine Baker’s strategic performance Critical Voicings of Black Liberation 47 65 Google Scholar

Bricktop with James Haskins (1983) Bricktop (New York: Atheneum). Bricktop Google Scholar

Camara, Félix de la and Pepito Abatino, with the collaboration of Joséphine Baker (1931) Mon sang dans tes veines (Paris: Éditions Isis). Mon sang dans tes veines Google Scholar

Cars, Jean des and Pierre Pinon (1991) Paris-Haussmann (Paris: Éditions du Pavillon de l’Arsenal). Paris-Haussmann Google Scholar

Cartier, Jacqueline (1968) ‘L’un des enfants de Joséphine Baker: “Si nous quittons les Milandes, nous poursuivrons notre idéal ailleurs”’, France Soir (May 17) (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, file no. 4oS.W 1651(2)). L’un des enfants de Joséphine Baker: “Si nous quittons les Milandes, nous poursuivrons notre idéal ailleurs” France Soir Google Scholar

Cendrars, Blaise (1921) Anthologie nègre (Paris: Buchet-Chastel). Anthologie nègre Google Scholar

Château des Milandes: ancienne demeure de Joséphine Baker (1992) (publicity brochure) (Dordogne: Château des Milandes). Google Scholar

Fabre, Michel (1991) La Rive noire: de Harlem à la Seine (1985) (Paris: Éditions Lieu Commun). La Rive noire: de Harlem à la Seine Google Scholar

Fabre, Michel (1991) From Harlem to Paris: Black Writers in France, 1840–1980 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). From Harlem to Paris: Black Writers in France, 1840–1980 Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness Google Scholar

Hammond, Brian and Patrick O’Connor (1988) Josephine Baker (London: Jonathan Cape). Josephine Baker Google Scholar

Haney, Lynn (1981) Naked at the Feast: A Biography of Josephine Baker (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company). Naked at the Feast: A Biography of Josephine Baker Google Scholar

Hansen, Arlen J. (1990) Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s (New York: Little, Brown and Company). Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s Google Scholar

Hargreaves, Alec G. (1991) Voices from the North African Immigrant Community in France: Immigration and Identity in Beur Fiction (Oxford: Berg). Voices from the North African Immigrant Community in France: Immigration and Identity in Beur Fiction Google Scholar

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (1998) Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape Google Scholar

Fabre, Michel (2006) Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, forthcoming). Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image Google Scholar

Koger, Géo, Henri Varna and Vincent Scotto (1930) ‘J’ai deux amours’ (Paris: Melodic-Jazz du Casino de Paris), Cat. #DF229; sheet music (Paris: Éditions Salabert). J’ai deux amours Google Scholar

Lemarchand, Henri and Francis Lopez (1953) ‘Dans mon village’, recorded in Germany by Pierre Dreuder and his orchestra, Bertelsmann (Paris: Éditions Salabert). Dans mon village Google Scholar

Lyon, Janet (2001) ‘Josephine Baker’s hothouse,’ in Modernism, Inc.: Body, Memory, Capital, ed. Jani Scandura and Michael Thurston (New York: New York University Press), 29–47. Josephine Baker’s hothouse Modernism, Inc.: Body, Memory, Capital 29 47 Google Scholar

Maffesoli, Michel (1988) Les Temps des tribus (Paris: Libraire des Méridiens Klincksieck). Les Temps des tribus Google Scholar

Mannheim, Karl (1936) Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, trans. Louis Wirth and Edward Shils (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World). Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge Google Scholar

Maran, René (1921) Batouala, véritable roman nègre (Paris: Albin Michel). Batouala, véritable roman nègre Google Scholar

Fabre, Michel Batouala: A True Black Novel (1972), trans. Barbara Beck and Alexandre Mboukou (Washington DC: Black Orpheus Press). Batouala: A True Black Novel Google Scholar

Martin, Denis-Constant (1992) ‘Du jazz band au zazous: l’invention du jazz français (1900–1945)’, paper presented at the African Americans and Europe Conference, Paris, Université de Paris III, 5–9 February. Du jazz band au zazous: l’invention du jazz français (1900–1945) Google Scholar

Moret, Frédéric (1992) ‘Images de Paris dans les guides touristiques en 1900’, Le Mouvement Social 160 (July-September), 79–98. Images de Paris dans les guides touristiques en 1900 Le Mouvement Social 160 79 98 Google Scholar

Papich, Stephen (1976) Remembering Josephine (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill). Remembering Josephine Google Scholar

Rose, Phyllis (1989) Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time (New York: Vintage Books). Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1948) ‘Orphée noir,’ in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, ed. Léopold Sédar Senghor (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France), ix-xliv; excerpted in Présence Africaine 1.6, 1st trimester (1949), 9–14. Orphée noir, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française 9 14 Google Scholar

Sauvage, Marcel (1927) Les Mémoires de Joséphine Baker (Paris: Éditions Kra). Les Mémoires de Joséphine Baker Google Scholar

Shack, William A. (2001) Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press). Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars Google Scholar

Schwartz, Vanessa R. (1995) ‘Museums and mass spectacle: the Musée Grévin as a monument to life’, French Historical Studies 19.1, 7–26. Museums and mass spectacle: the Musée Grévin as a monument to life French Historical Studies 19.1 7 26 Google Scholar

Stovall, Tyler (1996) Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (New York: Houghton Mifflin). Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light Google Scholar

Vincour, John (1970) ‘At 64, Josephine Baker looks at Black Power’, International Herald Tribune (August 31) (Paris: Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, file no. S.W 4754–1). At 64, Josephine Baker looks at Black Power International Herald Tribune Google Scholar

Wolff, Janet (1985) ‘The invisible flâneuse: women and the literature of modernity’, Theory, Culture, and Society 2.3, 37–46. The invisible flâneuse: women and the literature of modernity Theory, Culture, and Society 2.3 37 46 Google Scholar

Wood, Ean (2000) The Josephine Baker Story (London: Sanctuary Publishing). The Josephine Baker Story Google Scholar

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Jules-Rosette, Bennetta

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta