Bringing a minoritarian performance studies perspective to bear on performances executed by Nina Simone between 1958 and 1971, this talk theorizes minoritarian performance as a revolutionary practice born from the tension between freedom and its negation. The work of minoritarian performance, it argues, is to materialize Simone’s desire “to know what it would feel like to be free,” affect a black feminist reorganization of the limiting conditions of the present, negotiate the unjust distribution of death and exploitation towards black life, and rehearse and realize the potential for what Ernst Bloch described as a life in freedom and happiness.
Joshua Chambers-Letson conducts research and teaches courses in performance theory, critical race theory, contemporary art and performance, political theory, and queer of color critique. He is the author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, forthcoming 2018) and A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2013), winner of ATHE’s Outstanding Book Award in 2014. On research leave academic year 2017-2018, he is working on a book with co-author Yves Winter (Political Science, McGill University) about a nineteenth century Spanish shipwreck, the Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes, and the contemporary entanglements between sovereignty, slavery, capital, colonialism, performance, and state power. Other writing has appeared in Social Text, Political Theory, Criticism, Cultural Studies, MELUS, Journal of Asian American Studies, women & performance, and TDR. With Ann Pellegrini and Tavia Nyong’o he is a series co-editor of the Sexual Cultures series at NYU Press.