Performing Blackness

Winter 2014 / Summer 2015

Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez (eds.), Black Performance Theory, Durham and London, Duke University Press 2014, pp279; paperback

It is refreshing to encounter a body of performance theorisation not defined by white academic progenitors, and their latter-day wrangles regarding original authority over the field of ‘performance studies’.1 As the co-editors Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez note, this a field which is sparsely populated with black-specific aesthetic discourses, for ‘black performance theory has only begun to uncover its resources’ (p15). To uncover rather than discover, recognise rather than sanction, connect rather than fracture, are the dynamics certainly characterising the essays in this collection. Although originally applied in relation to gender, Rosalind C. Morris’s problematisation of Performance Theory raises questions ‘about the degree to which current versions of performance theory enact rather than critically engage the political economies of value and desire from which they arise’, and Black Performance Theory confronts and answers those questions for black performance agencies.2 


1. Richard Schechner, ‘Plagiarism, Greed, and the Dumbing Down of Performance Studies’, TDR: The Drama Review, Volume 53 Number 1 Spring 2009, 7-21.

2. Rosalind C. Morris, ‘All Made Up: Performance Theory and the New Anthropology of Sex and Gender’, Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 24 1995, 567-92. 

84/85 Societies of Control