Arabella Fields: Black Nightingale or Black Chameleon?
The singer Arabella Fields, who performed throughout Europe during the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was known most consistently as ›The Black Nightingale‹. Yet the historical record ascribes to her a disorienting array of identities: from African to Native American to African-American to Australian to South American. Drawing on postmodern notions of identity, this essay argues that her onstage performances provide the key to understanding the enigma of her national and ethnic origins. By granting Fields agency in the construction of her persona, the essay contends that she exploited the ambiguity of blackness to craft a radical subjectivity that undermined essentialist paradigms of identity serving to sustain the enterprise of nationalism.