Staging Aural Fugitivity Through Nineteenth-Century Freak Show Archives


  • Danielle Bainbridge Northwestern University


This essay analyzes aural fugitivity in archives of nineteenth-century freak show performers Millie Christine McKoy and traces the difficulties in staging these archives for twenty-first-century audiences. Aural fugitivity couples theories of Black fugitivity with sound studies analysis of enslavement and nineteenth-century performance in order to explore the legacies of freak show and sideshow performers who were also enslaved. This essay, taking as an object of analysis the author's own creative work based on these archives, traces the biography of the McKoys alongside their performance strategies that resisted full archival capture through fugitive sound. 

Author Biography

Danielle Bainbridge, Northwestern University

Danielle Bainbridge is assistant professor of theatre and performance studies at Northwestern University. Her book-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.






Hermeneutic Loops: Disrupting the Audio/Visual Litanies