Détournement, abjection and disidentification in The Blacks
in The politics of Jean Genet’s late theatre
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This chapter looks at how Jean Genet's 1958 play The Blacks opened the hidden wounds of the period, namely those related to insecurities about France's 'racial identity' on the eve of decolonisation. In The Blacks, the object of détournement is limited, since it is focused on reversing the tropes and clichés of 'black theatre', which were rooted, at the time, in popular entertainment forms such as clown shows, music-hall routines and circus acts. The post-Lacanian psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva's words highlight the extent to which objects of filth in abjection are metaphorical. Like The Mousetrap in Hamlet, the play-within-the play of The Blacks is designed to make the French spectators feel guilty, to remind them of their whiteness. The new configurations of identity are dependent upon the disclosure of a wrong that invited French subjects to disidentify with the French nation-State and to hear the call of the immigrant Other.

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