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Danielle Bainbridge

Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D., African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University
B.A., English and Theatre Arts, University of Pennsylvania

Research Interests:

Black Feminist Theory
19th-21st century Black arts and culture
Performance Studies
Theatre History
African American Literature (19th c to Contemporary)
Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Performance (18th c to Contemporary)
US & Anglophone Caribbean History
Postcolonial Theory


Spring 2019:

AFAM 236-0-20 Intro to African American Studies
AFAM 335-0-20 Race and Literature in 19th Century America

Current Research:

Danielle Bainbridge is a postdoc in African American Studies in the 2018-2019 academic year and will begin a professorship in the Department of Theatre (also at Northwestern) in the fall of 2019. Her ongoing book project in progress “Refinements of Cruelty: Enslavement, Enfreakment, and the Performance Archive” examines the lives of African American sideshow and freak show performers who were also enslaved. Refinements of Cruelty establishes how the improvisational and anticipatory nature of the archival practices of slavery are mirrored in 19th century freak show performances that span the ante-bellum and post Civil War United States. She calls this anticipatory accounting a ‘future perfect’ practice of archive and performance that considers “what will have been” rather than just the historical past tense. She theorizes that the archival structures that recorded enslavement and enfreakment on the sideshow stage are deeply invested in accounting equally for performers’ physical bodies as well as their performance labor. This creates a system of fungibility whereby the unfree enfreaked body accrues high value as an object of spectatorship and performance even as the terms of bondage renders that same body abjectly valueless as a traditional enslaved laborer. This occurs both onstage during life and also in the archive after death. Her project received the support of a Ford Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship (2014-2017).

In addition to her academic research, Danielle is also a creative writer, playwright and web series host. She is the researcher, writer, and host of the PBS Digital Studios web series "The Origin of Everything" which focuses on highlighting unusual and under told history and streams on Youtube and Facebook. Her creative nonfiction and fiction appears in Moko Magazine, Killens Review of Arts & Letters, and The Mechanics’ Institute Review Online. She was the inaugural winner of the 2015 Barry Lopez prize for creative nonfiction from Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (judged by Nick Flynn) and a semi-finalist for the Kore Press 2016 memoir award. She received a 2016 scholarship from the Tin House creative writing workshop in Portland, Oregon. Her first play "Curio" premiered at the University of Pennsylvania in April 2018 and will also appear at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2018.

Recent Publications:

“Ruination and a Dramaturgical Reading of Jamaican Women’s Transnational Literature in 1980s North America.” Anthology chapter in African-American Literature in Transition, 1980-1990. Cambridge University Press. (Forthcoming 2019).

“Stomaching It: A Black Performance Art of Digestion and Endurance.” Anthology chapter in A Companion to Performance Art. Bloomsbury Press. (Forthcoming 2019).

“Autopsy and Enfreakment on the 19th Century Stage." (Under revision 2018).

Book review of Aimee Meredith Cox’s Shapeshifters. Winter 2016 Issue. TDR (The Drama Review 2016).

“Things to Throw in the Fire.” Mechanic’s Institute Review Online. October 2016.  (Fiction 2016)

“The Hospital: The Spit in My Mouth Heals the Wounds on My Tongue.” The Best of Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. March 2016. (Creative Nonfiction 2016)

“Strikethrough Ghostlight.” Killens Review of Arts and Letters. Fall/Winter 2015 (2015). (Creative Nonfiction 2015)

“Cyar.” Moko Magazine 6 (2015): Web. (Creative Nonfiction 2015)

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