Passive Resistance TRaining with SNCC, 1961. Photo: James Karales

Passive Resistance TRaining with SNCC, 1961. Photo: James Karales

 Students as Teachers at Highlander folk school

Students as Teachers at Highlander folk school

Rehearsing Civil Rights

Rehearsing Civil Rights is the first in-depth examination of an ethos and culture of rehearsal embedded within the black freedom struggle from the early 1930s to the late 1960s. Rehearsals for nonviolent direct action and black self determination took a number of different forms—improvisational exercises, role-playing scenarios, and large-scale simulations—and were undertaken in a number of sites, including interracial institutes, adult education centers, citizenship schools, mass meetings, and workshops. Rather than being associated with a specific organization or campaign, rehearsal techniques were deployed in diverse circumstances in order to meet varied (and sometimes contrasting) objectives, both practical and spiritual. Yet in spite of the ubiquity of such practices, no detailed study has been conducted of their use, their ideological orientations, or their aesthetic implications. Using theories and methods of performance studies to intervene in civil rights historiography, and vice-versa, this book shines new light on key debates that continue to frame Movement scholarship: philosophical versus tactical nonviolence, the role of white people in the movement, and the relationship between individual charismatic leaders and grassroots collectivity.


 Beau and Emma Johnson Celebrate paying off their house with a mortgage burning party. Photo: Ray ScioScia

Beau and Emma Johnson Celebrate paying off their house with a mortgage burning party. Photo: Ray ScioScia

Democratic Theory, Performance, and Prefigurative Politics

The field of performance studies has historically been concerned with the enactment of citizenship and the embodied practices of politics. Likewise, in recent years scholars of political theory have pursued what Jason Frank has memorably named "constituent moments"--those embodied acts whereby political subjects lay claim to popular sovereignty and populist authority. This project seeks to explicate this relationship between performances of political selfhood and democratic theory, with a particular eye to how minority subjects unrecognized by the state make use of "prefigurative politics" to bring new worlds into being.


How Performance Became White

SDS National Council Mtg.jpg

Inspired by Francesca Polletta's "How Participatory Democracy Became White: Culture and Organizational Choice," this project tracks the coalescing of the field of performance studies in the middle of the twentieth century, alongside the marches, demonstrations, direct actions, and mediatized spectacles that inspired its scholars to constitute a category of "performance" as it moved off the stage and into the street. While this historical concurrence is often observed, the intellectual history of the field is often written in a unidirectional way. This project seeks to change that, reconceptualizing the field's history in a way that recognizes black and Latinx grassroots organizers not simply as objects of its study but as innovators of its concepts.