Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview

Adrienne Kennedy's Heterotopias and the (Im) possibilities of the (Black) Female Self

Savas Patsalidis

Each day I wonder with what or with whom can I co-exist in a true union. Adrienne Kennedy, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White.

It is always right to name the place you move in. to name these people now. wherever you are they come upon you like an image. Jay Wright, "The Master of Names."

Black American culture is a very fragmented thing. We're all trying to come up with some definition of what we are. My absolute definition of me is the schizophrenia, the contradiction. George Wolfe ( 1986).


I

Heterotopias, for Michel Foucault, are "real places--places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted." Because hoterotopias are "capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible," Foucault likens these cultural counter-sites to an epistemological mirror where "I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent. ... From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: It makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this

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