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Young, Hershini Bhana. Illegible Will: Coercive Spectacles of Labor in South Africa and the Diaspora.

Young, Hershini Bhana. Illegible Will: Coercive Spectacles of Labor in South Africa and the Diaspora. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017, pp.280, ISBN: 978-0-8223-6320-0.

This book engages with the archive of South African and Black diasporic performance to examine the absence of Black women's will from that archive to argues for that will's illegibility, given the paucity of materials outlining the agency of Black historical subjects. Drawing on court documents, novels, photographs, historical records, websites, and descriptions of music and dance, the author shows how Black will can be conjured through critical imaginings done in concert with historical research, and thus, critically imagines the will of familiar subjects such as Sarah Baartman and that of obscure figures such as the eighteenth-century enslaved person Tryntjie of Madagascar, who was executed in 1713 for attempting to poison her mistress. Also, the book investigates the presence of will in contemporary expressive culture, such as the Miss Landmine Angola beauty pageant, placing it in the long genealogy of the freak show. In these capacious case studies, the author situates South African performance within African diasporic circuits of meaning throughout Africa, North America, and South Asia, demonstrating how performative engagement with archival absence can locate that which was never recorded. The author is an Associate Professor of English at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

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Publication:Journal of Pan African Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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