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Performing Anti-Slavery
Activist Women on Antebellum Stages


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  • Date Published: February 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107644601
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About the Authors
  • In Performing Anti-Slavery, Gay Gibson Cima reimagines the connection between the self and the other within activist performance, providing fascinating new insights into women's nineteenth-century reform efforts, revising the history of abolition, and illuminating an affective repertoire that haunts both present-day theatrical stages and anti-trafficking organizations. Cima argues that black and white American women in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement transformed mainstream performance practices into successful activism. In family circles, literary associations, religious gatherings, and transatlantic anti-slavery societies, women debated activist performance strategies across racial and religious differences: they staged abolitionist dialogues, recited anti-slavery poems, gave speeches, shared narratives, and published essays. Drawing on liberal religious traditions as well as the Eastern notion of transmigration, Elizabeth Chandler, Sarah Forten, Maria W. Stewart, Sarah Douglass, Lucretia Mott, Ellen Craft and others forged activist pathways that reverberate to this day.

    • Creates a performance genealogy for American women's anti-slavery activism
    • Traces the dialogue between black and white women in the antebellum anti-slavery movement
    • Shows how the relationship between the self and the other was redefined in activist performance
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    • Honourable Mention, 2015 Barnard Hewitt Award, American Society for Theatre Research

    Customer reviews

    22nd Nov 2015 by RobinBernstein

    Honorable Mention, The Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre, given by the American Society for Theatre Research. The Awards Committee Wrote: In Performing Anti-Slavery, Cima argues that African American and white women in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement transformed everyday practices into performance-based activism. Cima shows us how women mobilized everyday acts such as reading or singing, in conjunction with public speeches and debates, to activist ends. By analyzing the everyday acts and on-stage performances of black and white women, Cima challenges assumptions about abolitionism, particularly Garrisonian politics. Performing Anti-Slavery is extraordinary in scope and sweep as one committee member put it, reading this book is like spending time inside the mind of a brilliantly erudite scholar who is eager to share the wealth of her knowledge. It is a book of tremendous importance.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107644601
    • length: 314 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. From sentimental sympathy to activist self-judgment
    2. From the suffering of others to a 'compassion for ourselves'
    3. 'Beyond our traditions' to a provisional, practical activism
    4. From anti-slavery celebrity to cosmopolitan self-possession
    Epilogue: the repertoire of anti-trafficking.

  • Author

    Gay Gibson Cima, Georgetown University, Washington DC
    Gay Gibson Cima is a Professor of English at Georgetown University, Washington DC. In 2012, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Theatre in Higher Education's Women and Theatre Program. In 2015, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. Her book, Early American Women Critics: Performance, Religion, Race (2006), won the 2007 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History from the American Society for Theatre Research. A recipient of the ASTR's Kahan Prize, she has published widely on feminist performance history and critical race theory in journals such as Theatre Survey and the Theatre Journal as well as anthologies including Changing the Subject: Marvin Carlson and Theatre Studies, 1959–2009 (2009) and The Sage Handbook of Performance Studies (2006).


    • Honourable Mention, 2015 Barnard Hewitt Award, American Society for Theatre Research

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