This special issue explores how best to use performance to leverage justice for victims of trafficking, child soldiers, illegal immigrants, the poor, and others who lack recognition and protection within the legal and social apparati of national governments and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This focus has emerged from a two-year research project on “Gendered Citizenship: Manifestations and Performance” between scholars in theatre and performance in collaboration with politics colleagues at University of Warwick, UK and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
Janelle Reinelt and María Estrada-Fuentes
Come what may the house enables us to say: I will be an inhabitant of the world, in spite of the world.1 This essay presents a piece of performance research that brought together a theatre-maker/performer and a theatre researcher to explore the relationships between theatre and poverty. Our collaboration was just one part of a broader research project, […]
Carran Waterfield and Jenny Hughes
Introduction On the 16th of August 2012 thirty-four Lonmin miners lost their lives at Marikana in South Africa. They were killed by the police who—after failed, ignored, or impeded negotiations with the striking miners—were assigned by the Lonmin Board of Directors and the mining unions to demobilize and dismantle the striking mass present at the […]
Sofie de Smet and Marieke Breyne
This essay begins with two brief accounts—one of arrival and the other of vanishing. It was the late summer of 2005 when we—my partner, young daughter, and I—moved to the UK, where I was to take up a lectureship at the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick. I […]
The body is a repository of metaphors and within its function of global exchange, its limits of fragility and destruction, the body serves as a way of dramatizing the social text. Olivier Mongin, in his important study on film and modernity, has said that there is currently an “economía de las imágenes de violencia… [en […]
Jimmy Noriega looks to theatrical performance as a method for engaging the subject of “illegal” immigration and, in particular, the death of undocumented migrants. He argues that theatre can provide an avenue by which to generate both a private and public discourse that allows for a more nuanced and fair treatment of migrant death, which is especially significant in comparison to the representations offered by the typical media coverage. Rather than focus on several texts, this essay analyzes one play—14 by José Casas (2003)—and the ways it engages with mass migrant death and the myriad of responses to it.
Jimmy A Noriega
In the contemporary globalized world, the life stories of marginalized and vulnerable peoples play a crucial role in attempting to leverage justice. Charities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other bodies concerned to “raise the voices” of asylum seekers, displaced peoples, and victims of abuse flood the internet and other media with written and filmed testimonies in […]
Touring Testimonies: Rebalancing the Public Realm through Human Rights Activism in Asylum Monologues and Seven
In 2010, a landmark UK Supreme Court case was won on behalf of two gay men, from Cameroon and Iran, whose applications for asylum due to sexual identity had previously been rejected on the basis of a prevailing “reasonable tolerability” concept—that is, the view that gay applicants could conceal their homosexuality by acting discreetly upon […]
Since the millennium, there has been a growing global awareness about the business of human trafficking as it has exponentially expanded in relation to the neoliberal economic climate, the vast displacement of people through wars and conflict, and the growth of tourism and e-commerce. Because theatre and performance studies work through an epistemology of embodied […]
In the Battlefield What can you tell me about love? This question was often followed by a combination of nervous laughter and bitter smiles. Thoughtful silence. As if love could not be part of life in the guerrilla ranks. As if love was not part of everyday life in times of war. Perhaps the former […]
Affective Labors: Love, Care, Solidarity in the Social Reintegration of Female Ex-Combatants in Colombia
When I was rescued by the police and put in a shelter home, I felt angry. I did not know any other work. Before, I just had to lend my body and the work got done. I got paid, without having done anything (Poolish jokhon amake uddhar kore Shelter home e dilo, khoob raag hoechhilo. […]
Mediations around an Alternative Concept of “Work”: Re-imagining the Bodies of Survivors of Trafficking
Urmimala Sarkar Munsi
Hotels make for great theatre. They are quintessentially modern (this is especially true of motels, by way of their association with automobiles); they allow for unexpected encounters and mysterious retreats—a clichéd feature of practically every spy drama and tale of illicit sex we can remember; they combine public (lobby, bar, dining room) with private (guest […]
This talk was presented as a keynote address at the Gendered Citizenship: Manifestations and Performance Conference, January 6, 2015, at the University of Warwick. In this forty-two minute audio-essay, Roy theorizes what she calls polyrhythmic citizenship, the way the intelligibility of the concept of citizenship plays out, much like music, across different contexts and cultures. She discusses “transformative constitutionalism” and “insurgent citizenship” as the component parts of this citizenship, and takes for her key examples the founding of the Indian state and its constitution, and the Delhi gang rape case of 2012 which resulted in the death of Jyoti Singh.
Starting in February 2016, a protracted struggle has taken place on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus, pitting the students and their faculty supporters against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Administration of the university. The protestors’ issues chime with the desire to leverage justice that drives this issue. This piece presents one senior scholar and one early career scholar blogging about these events.
Ameet Parameswaran and Shirin M Rai
As part of our Gendered Citizenship project, we partnered or collaborated with several NGOs and theatre companies whose work is on the front lines of supporting survivors of poverty, violence, statelessness, and homelessness. We have listed these organizations and their websites in our “Further Resources” list at the end of this section. Here we share the “best practices” of two NGOs that work with survivors: one young and community-based (ARM of Care), growing quickly from a grass roots start; the other (Kolkata Sanved) engaged for twenty years to develop a substantial international reputation.
Janelle Reinelt, María Estrada-Fuentes and Urmimala Sarkar Munsi
Editors’ introduction to Issue 5.1. Includes an overview of articles in this issue, editorial announcements, and call for book review editor.
Chris Alen Sula, Eero Laine and Stefanie A Jones
Anne Donlon delves into the history of the British Left after World War I to assert the significance of the Black and feminist interventions of Claude McKay and Sylvia Pankhurst. Donlon centers the publication of “A Black Man Replies,” McKay’s letter to the editor published in Pankhurst’s newspaper The Worker’s Dreadnought, against white supremacist logics mobilized by prominent 1920s leftists that contributed to the reestablishment of policing of and violence against black men. Donlon’s archival discoveries weave together biography, material cultural analysis, and histories of trans-Atlantic activism, and, in the process, reveal the labor of building radical intersectional solidarity that came before and followed the moment of “A Black Man Replies.”
Rayya El Zein takes up a global analysis of how ideas of blackness, whiteness, and Arabness circulate in post-9/11 media accounts and argues that these concepts work to mediate Western understanding of politics in the Arab world. El Zein unpacks the paradox by which blackwashing is differentially deployed to mark certain Arab subjects as a “good rapper” or a “bad rapper,” and how both of these valences serve to expand neoliberal orientalism through the political familiarity promised by blackness. As an alternative, El Zein suggests attention to the material, historical, and geographic specificities of the power struggles that structure racial capitalism, classism, and racism, especially and essential because of their potential international unrecognizability.
From ‘Hip Hop Revolutionaries’ to ‘Terrorist-Thugs’: ‘Blackwashing’ between the Arab Spring and the War on Terror
Rayya El Zein
Jonathan Beller expands conversations about the role of the digital and the digital humanities through attention to the mechanisms by which the digital image is instrumental in neoliberal capitalist accumulation and colonialism. Beller argues that the digital image itself exploits the attentive labor of those who see it, organizes profitable patterns of spectatorship, and links communication directly to financial speculation. Through scrutiny of examples that attempt to disrupt the profitable, algorithmically-capitalized flow of data and attention through the interface of the screen, Beller’s article makes a pointed critique of the ways that fascism manifests in and might be combated via digital economies.
Edward Chamberlain takes on the pressing need for mentorship for queer youth, in particular queer youth of color. Addressing a dearth in both studies on and commitment to the wellness and flourishing of queer youth of color in institutions of higher learning, Chamberlain turns to what is in some respects both a traditional and nontraditional archive of resources: personal narrative writing by queer people of color. Taking up both Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Roland Sintos Coloma’s “Fragmented Entries, Multiple Selves,” Chamberlain argues that the structural hybridity of these narratives serves as a formal model for a queer mentoring methodology, and delves into the texts themselves for examples of how to mentor queer youth of color in and beyond the academy.
Mixing and Mingling Queerly: The Activist Sociality of Mentoring in the Personal Narratives of Coloma and Lorde
Edited by Chris A Eng and Amy K King, this first of a two-part forum identifies and contemplates the emergent potential of four analytics for imagining alternative humanities. Structuring thought across disciplines, these analytics resonate strongly with the specific ways that cultural studies shifted, developed, and refined its ideas and focus: J. Kēhaulani Kauanui takes up settler colonialism; Kyla Wazana Tompkins, New Materialism; Julie Avril Minich, disability; and Jodi Melamed, institutionality.
Amy K King and Chris A Eng
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui discusses the distinctive shifts toward examining Patrick Wolfe’s theory of settler colonialism as ‘a structure, not an event.’ Kauanui argues that a substantive engagement with settler colonialism also demands a deep rethinking of the associated concept of indigeneity–distinct from race, ethnicity, culture, and nation(ality)–along with the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies.
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui
Kyla Wazana Tompkins questions the structures informing claims of newness posed by discussions of “New Materialism.” She discusses the troubling ways in which these discourses, in turning toward the post- or non-human, can ironically reinforce assumptions about a universal human subject and elide considerations of gender, race, and power.
Kyla Wazana Tompkins
Advising against the potential ways in which scholarship might take up disability by fetishizing difference and reaffirming dominant models of able-bodiedness, Julie Avril Minich calls for work to be first and foremost accountable to people with disabilities: this means making knowledge accessible. In order for knowledge to be accessible, Minich stresses, the labor of accessibility must be addressed on an institutional level.
Julie Avril Minich
Jodi Melamed reassesses the analytic of institutionality, which has largely been theorized as a dominant tool of the university in incorporating the emergent and muting the oppositional. In particular, Melamed identifies dominant discussions of institutionality that see global neoliberalism as a new, all-totalizing force. Instead, by reassessing the historical conditions of racial capitalism that make possible the ‘global,’ Melamed also excavates a genealogy of radical resistance that might allow us to rethink institutionality toward collective solidarity.
Call for responses to a special forum, “Emergent Critical Analytics for Alternative Humanities,” edited by Chris A. Eng and Amy K. King. Lateral invites responses to Part I of this forum, especially from students, junior faculty, and other emerging scholars; these will be the foundation for Part II, to be published in Lateral 6.
Amy K King and Chris A Eng
This issue of Lateral examines the means by which performances happen at a variety of scales of cultural production and circulation, from the street to the living room to the border; from a cellphone to the theatrical stage to the art gallery; from public discourse in policy debates to the global circulation of performances of blackness, alterity, and power. Trends across these various means are thus particularly illuminating for the study of culture; performance can give us insight into aspects of culture more broadly and with great ability to account for differences and dynamics of power.
Eero Laine and Stefanie A Jones
Hillary Miller takes up theories of the city, illness, and precarity via a variety of performances by New Yorker Annie Lanzillotto. Miller argues that as she struggles with survival and eviction in the city, Lanzillotto reveals the bodily and economic limits of the precarious artist while protesting the inequities of the neoliberal city. Through this unique and eloquent study, Miller exposes how neoliberalism acutely and chronically structures the contemporary city’s spaces, socialities, and bodies, and explores performance’s potential and complicity in the face of those structures.
Leah Perry presents a feminist history of Riot Grrrl and Kathleen Hanna in order to explore the hope and the limits of an individualist revolution in the 1990s. Perry takes on the performance of shamelessness, embodied in Hanna’s songs as well as through bodywriting, sex work, zine production, and other aspects of the riot grrrl movement. Ultimately Perry exposes the position of these performances: they are alternative youth culture for certain subjects which both work against and from within the structures of neoliberalism. Perry concludes that shamelessness might remain a promising space for an urgent anti-racist, feminist politics, if it can work to destabilize power and center women from oppressed groups.
Alison Reed investigates the border- and boundary-crossing performance of Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0’sTransBorder Immigrant Tool (TBT), an incomplete cell phone program that offers GPS, guidance, and poetry to those attempting to cross into the United States across the Mexico/US border. Reed suggests a provocation-based performance of “queer provisionality,” revealing the aesthetics of oppressive power structures by juxtaposing them to social utopias. Interrogating the national neoliberal project of both US liberalism and US conservatism, Reed’s essay is also a transcription of the performances launched around TBT, the social and political machinery set into motion by Electronic Disturbance Theater’s failed utopian project.
Eunsong Kim challenges existing literature on Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, articulating Sierra’s neoliberal aesthetics as part of a process of managing the imagination of finance capitalism. By situating Sierra’s performance art as a performance of terror, Kim argues that Sierra does not just collaterally reproduce capitalist power relations, but coldly and calculatedly exploits and violates the bodies of the working poor, particularly people of color, for his own profit and for the viewing pleasure of his wealthy audiences. Kim fiercely critiques the ways Sierra profits from his use of Marxist discourse and appeals to political action. In doing so, Kim challenges scholars and artists to embrace the position of laborers and take up Black Radicalism against artistic instantiations of capitalism.
Kristin Moriah’s essay is rooted in extensive archival work in the US and Germany, examining the transatlantic circulation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin through markets of performance and literature in and between Germany and the United States. The essay follows the performative tropes of Uncle Tom’s Cabin from its originary political resonances to the present-day restaurants, train-stops, and housing projects named for the novel. Moriah reveals how the figurations of blackness arising from these texts are foundational to the construction of Germanness and American-German relations in the early 20th century and beyond.
Sheila Malone’s work is both digital art piece and critical essay, which explores the queerness and the vibrating machine in light of both recent scholarship on objects and materiality and the author’s own work as a performance artist. Malone’s art cuts across and questions the divides between highbrow and lowbrow, permanence and ephemerality, the G-rated and the X-rated. The digital installation and accompanying essay understand the space of inbetweenness as a potential site for queer interventions into existing material orders.
Jade E. Davis embraces Lateral’s digital publishing platform in what is described as a “found media journey” informed by the theoretical works of Zora Neale Hurston’s “How I Became Colored Me” and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. Davis intertwines these pieces, integrating and overlaying them with sound, static pictures, and live imagery to disrupt the act of reading and to raise questions related to “the performative role of translation” in light of the often difficult relations and circulations of blackness, gender, and language.