Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1461-0213
  • E-ISSN: 1570-5595
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The contribution seeks to apply the principles of J. L. Austin’s speech-act theories to the study of local business segregation in the Jim Crow South. In particular, it borrows the notions of illocutionary and perlocutionary force when examining the seemingly bland and prosaic statements that are often used to normalise segregation within the business of commercial entertainment. For purposes of expanding the complexity of typical Manichaean (i.e., Black vs White) ethnic studies, this analysis was developed within the context of tri-racial segregation as applied to rural moviegoing within Robeson County, North Carolina during the first half of the twentieth century. Notably, the development of Robeson’s historical cinema-exhibition spaces eventually resulted in a highly unusual venue – i.e., the three-entrance theatre – whose physical architecture reflected tensions between local ethnic demographics and desired social hierarchies. Yet even in the face of these unusual physical constructs, this study contends that seemingly everyday objective/descriptive and non-demonising language remained an essential component in enforcing segregation.


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