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Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture 2021: Josephine Baker as a “Rememory” of Global Black Cinema?

In her 2021 Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture, Terri Simone Francis reflects on Josephine Baker’s influence within the visual arts and theorizes Baker as both an international cultural figure and an African American film pioneer. Recent restorations of her films of the 1920s and 1930s have allowed her work to be seen in the context of recent cinema and media, indeed almost as recent cinema and media. In Francis’s view Baker exemplifies what author Toni Morrison called a “rememory”—a remembered memory. Francis’s study of Baker addresses absences and silences in film history, and she draws upon Morrison’s concept of rememory and Baker’s career to reconstruct the global beginnings of Black cinema. Ultimately, Francis is concerned with the film histories of the future, in which Black cinema history will be full of new unknowns, and believes that Baker’s authorship can inform new vocabularies of film thinking, film writing, and film feeling.