The public autopsies of 19th-century enfreaked performers remains a central issue in studies of 19th-century enslavement. While previously black performance studies focused on the instability of the historical past tense, the study of freak shows and enslavement dictates a reckoning with the future perfect tense, which sheds light on the history of the future by asking “what will have been” rather than “what was” or “what could have been.”

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