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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter takes transatlantic maritime performances as a case study for the way in which working bodies and performance practices situate themselves in wider communities. The sailors and passengers of maritime culture have often been culturally diverse, occupying a liminal space in between destinations. Looking at maritime performances with respect to labor, entertainment, and exchange, the chapter outlines how these performers have had to negotiate the complexity of cross-cultural encounters. It defines two sets of performances: those to pass the time during labor and those to entertain passengers. It also highlights how major American dance and theatrical activity was born out of maritime performance culture—such as the famous 1845 dance competitions between John Diamond and William Henry Lane and the African Grove Theatre Company. The chapter untangles how race, status, and cultural practice are negotiated in cross-cultural performances of folk music, dance, competitive entertainments, minstrel performances, and maritime ritual.

Keywords: maritime, performance, transatlantic performance, work, labor, maritime ritual, seamen, crossing the line, sea shanties, minstrelsy

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