There’s a certain fluidity to politics, a reliable sense that sooner or later, for better or for worse, the scene will change. Political tactics usually follow those waves; even the most stubborn of actors will eventually abandon a practice that’s become irrelevant. But what happens when the tactic is a human being? What becomes of a family born in symbolism when the day’s semiotics has shifted?
Such questions underlie the fascinating story of the entertainer Josephine Baker and her multi-racial family of twelve adopted children. As do questions about the nature of race itself, and a paradoxical need to strictly delineate its boundaries while performing their obsolescence. As presented by Matthew Pratt Guterl in Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, Baker’s eccentric quest also makes us consider fame, and how it enables oddity while simultaneously dismissing its meaning.
In the video below, Guterl introduces Baker and her brood:
You can read more about Josephine Baker as Angelina-antecedent at Slate.