Black Performance Theory Symposium 2011

Hemispheres & Souths

University of California , Santa Barbara

6-7May, 2011


Collaborate with two people taking on the overarching concept of a cardinal point like "South" or "West,” “East” or “North" and work it through a combination of texts and/or scholarly works. Your presentation should be a provocation that suggests unexpected routes of diaspora across "Hemispheres" and "Souths." It can be partially literary, but must contain an element of performance.


Examples: You might pick an imaginary place like the "dirty dirty South" and theorize it through Appurandi, Wyclef Jean, and Zora Neale Hurston to offer a hybrid performance of black social dance circa 1920 and 1990. You might pick “Up South,” “Down South,” “Southsides,” “Pacific Rims,” “Atlantic Rims,” “Black Cities,” “Black Coasts,” “Black Wests,” “I-lands,” “Promised Lands”... etc., to theorize Black "Hemispheres and Souths" in performance. You might layer this with a concept like "gesture" or "affect," or focus in on some local manifestation of diasporic desire.


Creative presentation formats beyond the traditional conference-style reading of prepared papers are not only welcome, but required!


Work in groups of 3. Participants are listed here. Bios will be posted as we receive them.


Be creative and enjoy!




BPT is a project of SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology, directed by Thomas F. DeFrantz




Friday May 6, McCune Room
9:00-9:30            Continental Breakfast

9:30-10:30         Welcome and Introductions

10:30-11:20      “The Black Queer South: A Performance in Three Movements,”
                                Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Matt Richardson, and E. Patrick Johnson

11:25-12:15      “Da Bashment, Da Breath, Da Basement: Spheric Positions of and/from                                             the Bottom,” Jeffrey McCune, Venus Opal Reese, N. Fadeke Castor

12:15-1:30 Lunch

1:30 - 2:20          “Revising Representation: The Paradox of Language and Performance of                                          Southern Black Characters,” Antonio Cuyler, Monica Ndounou,
                                Anita Gonzalez

2:25 - 3:15          “easy-n-greasy: dirty south keeps rollin' along,” Thomas DeFrantz &
                                Anna Scott


3:20 - 3:30          Break

3:30 - 4:20          “"Going Home: Memory, Performance, and All of Africa",” Anna Bean, Harvey                                Young, Koritha Mitchell

4:20 - 5:30          Profession and Research :: Dream Projects


Saturday May 7, Loma Pelona Room

9:30-10:00         Continental Breakfast

10:00-10:50      “The Search for True North,” Christina McMahon, Melissa Blanco Borelli,                                          Rashida Braggs

10:55-11:45      Profession and Research :: Workplace Climate

11:45-1:00         Box Lunch

1:00-1:50            “ the embrace of dis/orientation: errant souths and crooked dreams ,”                                               Hershini Bhana Young, Uri MacMillan, Sarah Jane Cervenac

1:55-2:45            “Transformative Gestures in Southern Rotation,” Grisha Coleman, Yolanda                                      Covington Ward, Raquel Monroe

2:45-3:00            Break
3:00-3:50            “Westworlds,” Stephanie Batiste, Jayna Brown

3:50 -5:00           Profession and Research :: Promotion & Tenure

5:00-5:30            BPT futures

6:00-8:30            Dinner



Information about BPT:

Begun in 1998 by Richard Green at Duke University, and convened since then by Thomas DeFrantz (MIT) working with a shifting roster of conveners from the group, the hosts for this year’s working group and conference are E. Patrick Johnson, Jennifer Brody and Harvey Young at Northwestern University. The theme for the gathering is “Theory in Motion.” We thought that the theme opens up all kinds of possibilities for discussion and performance. As in years past, the goals of this year’s event are to:

1) stimulate discussion and reflection
2) inspire action across disciplines/institutions
3) create environments for art/scholarship that nurtures growth

The Black Performance Theory Conference, a group of scholars from across the country dedicated to an open network of ideas on black performance, meet every couple of years for a colloquium and discussion group. Since 1998, the Black Performance Theory group has assembled a shifting roster of scholar/practitioners working with and through performance to investigate and articulate the emergence of black performance theory.

The working group offers a unique opportunity to gather and discuss issues, paradigms, and approaches to theorizing black performance. The group has taken as its primary inquiry concerns about an ontology of blackness, as in, What is a black sensibility?  What is black performance?  What is black music? What is black dance? What is black oratory? What is a black aesthetic?

The group has met at Duke University (1998, organized by Richard Colin Green); MIT (2000, organized by Thomas DeFrantz and Green), Stanford (2002, organized by DeFrantz and Green), at the University of Minnesota (2004, organized by Ananya Chatterjea and DeFrantz); at Williams College (2006, organized by Annemarie Bean and DeFrantz); and at Northwestern University (2007, organized by E. Patrick Johnson and DeFrantz).  Other breakout events inspired by the group have met at University of California, Riverside (2003, organized by Anna Scott and DeFrantz). The majority of working group activity has been devoted to discussion, with the aim of raising questions and establishing frames for the critique and analysis of black performance.

For a 2009 meeting at Yale, Visiting Professor DeFrantz and Visiting Associate Professor Daphne Brooks organized the event to meet in May at the Afro-Am House at Yale. The theme of BPT 2009 was Afrosonics: Grammars of Black Sound.

The group was formed as a resource and networking tool for junior faculty. Over time, many faculty affiliated with the group have been tenured, and there has been an increase in the number of graduate students interested in the field.  These developments are exciting for us all, and they also shift the nature of the event quite a bit from its beginnings as a resource for junior faculty.

STILL, the event is designed to enhance possibilities for junior faculty to commune with each other, to refine ideas, to network among peers and senior faculty in the field, and to inspire a renewal of purpose for working in black performance theory in the academy.