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Dave Carson’s Brownface Empire
November 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
In October 1861, blackface minstrel performer Dave Carson staged the debut of his San Francisco Minstrels in Kolkata, India. Over the ensuing three decades, Carson established himself as a leading theatrical impresario on the Indian subcontinent. He made Kolkata his primary center of theatrical activity as he continually toured South Asia and beyond, including regular stops in the major towns, ports, and cities of present-day India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and Japan. Through his tours, Carson widely circulated the most popular theatrical form of the nineteenth century: blackface minstrelsy. Yet, Carson also established himself as one of the earliest practitioners of a novel form of minstrelsy: brownface.
This seminar by Dr. Kellen Hoxworth (Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies, Florida State University) will focus on Carson’s repertoire of brownface figures and their role in scripting colonial discourses on race and gender. In particular, Carson’s signature role, “The Bengalee Baboo,” demonstrates the complex imbrications of minstrelsy’s racial and gender stereotypes in the fashioning of brownface. Carson repeatedly devised new brownface caricatures into his minstrel show, developing an extensive array of racial figures that were quickly woven into Anglophone popular culture globally. Thus, this seminar considers how popular theatrical activity in the British Empire furnished the earliest scripts of brownface caricature – many of which remain in circulation today.
This hosted event by the Carolina Asia Center will be held in-person at the FedEx Global Education Center, Room 4003, and streamed live online via Zoom. In order to join the Zoom livestream, please register with this link: