Christian DuComb is an Assistant Professor of English
at Colgate University. He has previously taught at Haverford College and Brown University, where he received his Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies in 2012. His current research focuses on the history of racial impersonation in Philadelphia, and his teaching interests include theater history, dramatic literature, and performance studies.
Haunted City: Three Centuries of Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia
Under contract with the University of Michigan Press, with publication expected in 2016 Haunted City explores the history of blackface masking and other forms of racial impersonation in Philadelphia—as realized in street performance, festivity, theater, and graphic art—from the late eighteenth century through the present day. The book focuses on select historical moments, such as the advent of the minstrel show in 1842-1843 and the ban on blackface in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade in 1964, when local performances of racial impersonation inflected regional, national, transnational, and global formations of race, gender, class, and ethnicity. Through detailed analyses of performances of racial impersonation at key geographic sites in Philadelphia, such as Walnut Grove and City Hall, Haunted City argues that ghosts can and do appear through performance, materializing and re-presenting aspects of the past that remain stubbornly situated in place.
Publications Book Chapters and Peer-Reviewed Articles
DuComb, Christian. “The Minstrel Wench and the Mummers Wench: A Performance Genealogy.” In Performing Utopia. Ed. Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro. Chicago: Seagull Books, distributed by the University of Chicago Press. In press, with publication expected in 2016.
DuComb, Christian and *Jessica Benmen. “Flash Mobs, Violence, and the Turbulent Crowd.” Performance Research 19.5 (November 2014): 34-40.
DuComb, Christian. “Staging Violence in Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Anodyne.” Theatre Journal 64.2 (May 2012): 197-211.
DuComb, Christian. “The Politics of Fetal Display.” In The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens. Ed. T. Christine Jespersen, Alicita Rodríguez, and Joseph Star. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. 176-188.
DuComb, Christian. “Present-Day Kutiyattam: G. Venu’s Radical and Reactionary Sanskrit Theatre.” TDR: The Drama Review 51.3 (Fall 2007): 98-117. Winning entry, 2006 TDR Student Essay Contest.
*indicates student co-author
DuComb, Christian. Entries on “Meschianza” and “Mummers.” In The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Camden, NJ: Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, 2015. http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org.
DuComb, Christian. Review of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, by Robin Bernstein. Theatre Journal 65.2 (May 2013): 295-296.
Selected Talks and Conference Presentations
Invited Talks DuComb, Christian. Lead Panelist, “Perspective/Audience: Matters of Race in Viewing the Plays of August Wilson.” Syracuse Stage, co-sponsored by the Syracuse University Humanities Center, Fall 2014
DuComb, Christian. Guest Lecturer, Senior Seminar in Theatre. Brown University, Fall 2014
DuComb, Christian. Panelist, “New Works Symposium: Performance in Global Americas.” Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting, University of Cincinnati, Spring 2014
DuComb, Christian. "Facing East: The Theatre of David Henry Hwang." Wednesday@1:00 Lecture Series, Syracuse Stage, Spring 2014
Recent Conference Presentations DuComb, Christian. “Graphic Art, Black Performance, and Orientalism in Antebellum Philadelphia” American Studies Association (ASA), Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2014
DuComb, Christian and *Jessica Benmen. “What’s New about Flash Mobs?” Performance Studies International (PSi), Annual Conference, Stanford University, Summer 2013
DuComb, Christian. “Blackface Photography and Performance Remains” Plenary Presentation, American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Annual Conference, Nashville, TN, Fall 2012
*indicates student co-presenter
All students of theater must learn to read plays as living texts, continuously reinvented through historically and culturally specific practices of theatrical performance. As a teacher, I endeavor not only to help my students grow as scholars and artists but also to broaden their vision of what theater can be. I design my courses to probe the boundaries of theater as an art form, and I select readings that emphasize race, gender, class, and sexual identity as vital themes in the study of theater and performance.
Theater has a paradoxical capacity to highlight human differences while also exposing those differences as constructed and artificial, and this paradox animates my teaching interests in theater history, dramatic literature and criticism, and performance studies.
By using a range of pedagogical techniques—including group projects, student presentations, course blogs, performance exercises, and excursions to see live theater—I strive to foster an inclusive learning environment in which students of all backgrounds and learning styles are encouraged to participate.
Courses taught at Colgate include Theater History I (THEA/ENGL 266), Theater History II (THEA/ENGL 267), Global Theater (THEA/ENGL 349), Boiling Over: Theater in the American Melting Pot (THEA/ENGL 351), Carnival in Performance from the Acropolis to Mardi Gras (FSEM 163), and Challenges of Modernity (CORE 152).
It or Her, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2006-2007
A Theatrical Rendering of the Modern Life of Karen B, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2005
Substitution Chart, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2004
Histoire de nègre (staged reading), by Édouard Glissant and l'Institut Martiniquais d'études, 2015
The Lacy Project, by Alena Smith (staged reading), 2012
The Blind, by Maurice Maeterlinck (assistant director), 2007
Apple of Discord, by Alena Smith, 2003
Cipher, by Cory Hinkle, directed by Donya Washington, 2005
Accumulation Process, devised by Rick Henderson, 2005
- Publication Subvention and Expense Grant, Colgate University Research Council, 2014-2015
- Major Grant, Colgate University Arts Council, 2014-2015
- Working Group Grant, Central New York Humanities Corridor, 2014-2015
- American Society for Theatre Research-Cambridge University Press Prize, 2012
- Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, Brown University, 2012
- Dissertation Research Fellowship, American Society for Theatre Research, 2010
Short-Term Research Fellowship, Winterthur Museum and Library, 2010
Dissertation Fellowship, Brown University, 2009-2010
Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia/Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2009
Graduate Student Essay Award, Theory and Criticism Focus Group, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, 2009
Student Essay Contest Winner, TDR: The Drama Review, 2006
First-Year Graduate Fellowship, Brown University, 2005-2006
Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Thomas J. Watson Foundation, 2001-2002