Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Published Writings of Katherine Dunham, 1964-1979

Island Possessed, paperback
By Danielle Hall

For many scholars and fans of Dunham, it is ostensibly natural to focus on her talents as dancer and choreographer or the Dunham Technique, but one area that also deserves attention is Dunham as a published writer. Over the course of her lifetime, Dunham published five books, several short stories, and journal/magazine articles--some under the pseudonym Kaye Dunn.

In my continued analysis of Dunham as artist-intellectual, it becomes critical to investigate other ways that she sought to engage herself and her audience within Diaspora culture, politics, and black aesthetic traditions. This is just a general list of Dunham’s literary work during the 1960s and 1970s.

1964 Dunham's short story "The Crime of Pablo Martínez" appears in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, published under Kaye Dunn.

1967 Dunham's short story "Afternoon into Night" (first published in Bandwagon Magazine, June 1952) is reprinted in The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes.

1974 Dunham’s fifth book Kasamance: A Fantasy, a book of allegorical African tales for youth set in Senegal. It was published in hardback with illustrations by Bennie Arrington based upon original drawings by Dunham’s husband, John Pratt.

Both short stories and Kasamance: A Fantasy may be of interest to literary scholars interested in youth and adult speculative fiction, and especially for scholars specializing in African-American, Afro-Cuban or Afrodiasporic literature forms. Dunham may be of interest as a writer of fantasy and speculative fiction of the African diaspora.

Island Possessed, hardcover

1969 Dunham’s fourth book, Island Possessed is published in hardcover. Written during a visit at her home in Dakar, Senegal in 1967, Dunham reflects upon her fieldwork on dance anthropology in Haiti in 1936. This text provides insight into race, class, and gender boundaries. It also discusses Voudun religious practices and Haitian political history and culture.

1978 Kaiso!: An Anthology of Writings, edited by VéVé Clark and Margaret B. Wilkerson is published (later reprinted as Kaiso!: Writings by and about Katherine Dunham, edited by VéVé Clark and Sara E. Johnson in 2005). This is the only and largest anthology documenting Dunham’s life and achievements.

Danielle Hall is a program coordinator and contributing writer for Black Studies @ SIUE.

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