AFROVOCALITY

Singing a Life in Bondage: Black Vocality and Subjectivity in 12 Years a Slave

The role of singing voice is central in defining the paradoxical condition of “free slave” within Steve McQueen’s 2013 “12 Years a Slave.” While arguing that the sound in the movie has been polarized along three different axes, it shows how the singing voice provides both a path into the subjectivity of the main character and a vivid, sonic description of African-American vocalities as they reverberate in the soundscape of slavery. While comparing the movie to historical documentation of black American vocal expressions, it emphasizes how they ultimately represent the unbroken search for a safe space through the delivery of vocal sounds.

Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2020, “Singing a Life in Bondage: Black Vocality and Subjectivity in 12 Years a Slave”, in D. Hughes, M. Evans (edited by) 2020, The Singing Voice in Contemporary Cinema, Equinox Publishing Ltd., pp. 52-72. ISBN: 978 1 78179 445 6

AFROVOCALITY