How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Performance, Colonial Resistance, and Black Cultural Production in Beyoncé’s "Lemonade" (2016)

10Apr2017 15:00 - 16:00


Master Class on April 10, 2017, 3-6pm and Guest lecture on April 11, 2017, 4-6pm by Ayanna Dozier (Department of Art History & Communication Studies, Institute for Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, McGill University) organized by Toni Pape and Jaap Kooijman.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016) uses the rich diasporic pool of Black cultural production to signify the ontological freedom that resides in performance and the audiovisual image for Black subjects. This talk will analyze the staging, performance, and use of Black cultural production made in Lemonade as a pedagogical tool for resisting colonial spaces and domination. Black cultural production signifies the practice of making culture that collectively speaks to spaces, subjects, and experiences that are racialized as Black. Black cultural production’s use of performance pushes objects and subjects beyond the confines of representation or occupation of being a “thing.” Objects are things, and as cultural historian Robin Bernstein notes, “performance is what distinguishes an object from a thing.”[i] In this way, performance for Black subjects has a history of being a used a signifier for the radical possibilities of freedom that exist outside of the occupation of colonization, which reduces racialized subjects to things.

Filled with numerous video, music, and spoken-word interludes, Lemonade utilizes what philosopher Sylvia Wynter states as the aesthetics that speak to the “counter-poetics of rhythm,” in her seminal 1992 essay on film criticism, “Rethinking ‘Aesthetics’: Notes Towards a Deciphering Practice.” This is to say that Wynter sees hybrid films (“video-like musical forms”) as triggering a second mutation in cinema and performance that allows for a collective encounter with film as oppose to an individuated one that, in its inception, speaks and represent dominant power structures. Beyoncé’s explicit referential use of Black cultural production through such “counter-poetics” displays an intervention in showcasing how cultural practices travel, repeat, and differentiate (primarily in music and dance) across the Black diaspora. Lemonade thus stands as an audiovisual document that uses the history of Black culture through performance to give life and possibility to cultural traditions and practices, some forgotten or unknown, in the present.

[i]    Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 74.

Master Class on April 10, 2017, 3-6pm (please enrol, see below). University Library, Belle van Zuylen zaal
Guest lecture on April 11, 2017, 4-6pm (public access). Oost-Indisch Huis, Kloveniersburgwal 48, room F.021

Participants who attend both the master class and guest lecture can obtain 1 EC. Please register before April 3 by e-mailing Be sure to specify your program and home university.

Master Class 10 april: Belle van Zuylenzaal

  • Universiteitsbibliotheek

    Singel 425 | 1012 WP Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 2301

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Lecture 11 apil: Oost-Indisch Huis/Bushuis, room F.021

  • Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

    Kloveniersburgwal 48 | 1012 CX Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 2258

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Published by  ASCA