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Stolen Time

Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze

Stolen Time

Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze

In 1956 Harry Belafonte’s Calypso became the first LP to sell more than a million copies. For a few fleeting months, calypso music was the top-selling genre in the US—it even threatened to supplant rock and roll. Stolen Time provides a vivid cultural history of this moment and outlines a new framework—black fad performance—for understanding race, performance, and mass culture in the twentieth century United States. Vogel situates the calypso craze within a cycle of cultural appropriation, including the ragtime craze of 1890s and the Negro vogue of the 1920s, that encapsulates the culture of the Jim Crow era. He follows the fad as it moves defiantly away from any attempt at authenticity and shamelessly embraces calypso kitsch. Although white calypso performers were indeed complicit in a kind of imperialist theft of Trinidadian music and dance, Vogel argues, black calypso craze performers enacted a different, and subtly subversive, kind of theft. They appropriated not Caribbean culture itself, but the US version of it—and in so doing, they mocked American notions of racial authenticity. From musical recordings, nightclub acts, and television broadcasts to Broadway musicals, film, and modern dance, he shows how performers seized the ephemeral opportunities of the fad to comment on black cultural history and even question the meaning of race itself.

272 pages | 35 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Black Studies

Culture Studies

History: American History

Music: General Music

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports


Stolen Time is beautifully written and beautifully argued. It is not only excellent scholarship, profound in its implications for African American studies, performance studies, media studies, and other fields, but also exemplary scholarship. . . . A significant contribution to an understanding of the racial politics and cultural logics of authenticity, particularly as they have affected black performers. . . . In his close textual analyses, which are a feature of every chapter, Vogel produces insights from the (seemingly) ephemeral or culturally inauthentic.”

Journal of Popular Music Studies

“Vogel’s interrogation of the historical-ontological situation of black fad performance brilliantly recalibrates the field of black performance studies and offers added dimension to its studies of representation and resistance. With its exacting depth and ambitious breadth, Stolen Time will be a consequential book for scholars of performance studies, black studies, popular music studies, media studies, and midcentury cultural history.”

The Journal of American History

“Recommended. . . The book's five dense chapters detail theoretical concepts of stolen time, critical solipsism, radical counterprogramming, mock transnational performance, and the phantom gestures and “temporal elsewhen” evoked through dance. Close readings of “counterfeit” performances by Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, Josephine Premice, Geoffrey Holder, and Duke Ellington offer insight into “the development of diasporic consciousness ... as African American performers self-reflexively and circuitously engaged with Caribbean performance tradition.” Vogel ends with a poignant description of Harry Belafonte’s rendition of “Don’t Stop the Carnival"—created for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with overtly politicized imagery and lyric content—which reveals “an emancipatory aesthetics and historical consciousness” always present in black fad performance.”


"An impressive book that addresses the artistic and expressive responses of black performers toward the commodification of calypso music during the 1950s. . . . The book is as much a critical intervention into the discourse on blackness in 1950s American popular culture as it is about black fad performance cycles and the reclamation of power through stolen time. . . . Stolen Time, as text and concept, performs a call to arms to scholars of various fields to engage in more collaborative research that is neither defined by nor confined to disciplinary boundaries. As we see in his exploration of the plurality of blackness, such work has great implications for future research in black studies, Caribbean studies, Afro-diasporic studies, performance studies, and more."

Theatre Survey

"Stolen Time is thoroughly enjoyable and brings forward a much-needed history of Black fad performances as represented in calypso music. . . . A significant contribution to the study of Black musical fads. . . Rigorously original."

Journal of African American History

“One of the boldest and most original studies of race and transnational mass culture in recent memory. Stolen Time promises to break wide open new directions in performance studies, cultural studies, black diaspora studies, and beyond.”

Daphne Brooks, author of Bodies in Dissent

Stolen Time provides the first book-length study of the black calypso craze, breaking new and important scholarly ground. Meticulously researched, clearly written, and forcefully argued, Stolen Time demonstrates how mass culture expands conceptions of black freedom and possibility.Vogel provides original insight to the calypso craze while advancing existing conversations in black cultural, literary, and performance studies about mid-twentieth-century popular culturalproduction. Essential reading.”

Soyica Colbert, author of Black Movements

“Vogel deftly reads performances across a range of modes including sound recordings, nightclub acts, television specials, musical theater, film, and dance...With the diversity of performance texts that form the bases of Vogel’s critical inquiry, this work seamlessly traverses disciplinary boundaries which will make it of particular interest to scholars of performance, critical race, diaspora, literary, film, media, and sound studies.”

Treviene A. Harris | Small Axe

“Thoughtfully researched and compellingly written. . . Especially striking throughout Stolen Time is Vogel’s skillful weaving of history, biography, theory, and critical inquiry to contemplate the significance of the calypso craze and the ontological conditions of black fad performance. The book is rich with fresh insights and important methodological interventions that add complexity to our understandings of concepts such as race, time, performance, diaspora, transnationalism, and mass culture. Students and scholars across myriad fields—theater studies, performance studies, media studies, popular music, and critical race studies, among them—will no doubt benefit tremendously from rigorously engaging with each chapter. To be sure, there is much to be gleaned about the significant role that artists continue to play in prompting social, cultural, and political change from Stolen Time’s absorbing prose and its shrewd considerations of black performance in the Jim Crow era.”

Journal of American Drama and Theatre

Table of Contents


Introduction: This and That, or, Swiped Calypsos

1          Stolen Time: The Ontology of Black Fad Performance
2          The Calypso Program: Technology, Performance, Cinema
3          Carnivalizing Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Calypso Theater and the Diasporic Instant
4          Surfacing the Caribbean: Black Broadway and Mock Transnational Performance
5          Working against the Music: Geoffrey Holder’s Elsewhen

Conclusion: Don’t Stop the Carnival


American Sociaty for Theatre Research: Errol Hill Award
Honorable Mention

New York University Dept. of English: Joe A. Callaway Prize
Honorable Mention

American Theater and Drama Society: John W. Frick Award

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