Race, Performance, and the Work of Creativity

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 8 color illustrations Published: December 2018

Author: Dorinne Kondo

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian American Studies, Theater and Performance > Theater

In this bold, innovative work, Dorinne Kondo theorizes the racialized structures of inequality that pervade theater and the arts. Grounded in twenty years of fieldwork as dramaturg and playwright, Kondo mobilizes critical race studies, affect theory, psychoanalysis, and dramatic writing to trenchantly analyze theater's work of creativity as theory: acting, writing, dramaturgy. Race-making occurs backstage in the creative process and through economic forces, institutional hierarchies, hiring practices, ideologies of artistic transcendence, and aesthetic form. For audiences, the arts produce racial affect--structurally over-determined ways affect can enhance or diminish life. Upending genre through scholarly interpretation, vivid vignettes, and Kondo's original play, Worldmaking journeys from an initial romance with theater that is shattered by encounters with racism, toward what Kondo calls reparative creativity in the work of minoritarian artists Anna Deavere Smith, David Henry Hwang, and the author herself. Worldmaking performs the potential for the arts to remake worlds, from theater worlds to psychic worlds to worldmaking visions for social transformation.


"A timely publication. . . [that] keenly reflects the complexity and entanglements of race, history, politics, representation and contemporary identities in North America." — David J. Scott, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"Working across disciplines, Kondo reverses the imperative of many scholars to read theory onto performance by instead focusing on the emergence of theory in theater, how it is deployed by theater artists and comes into contact with audiences. . . . For theater makers, Worldmaking serves as another kind of reparative, as it de-centers Eurocentric theatrical models in exchange for processes that enact the minoritarian, the non-hegemonic, the reparative." — Kristen Holfeuer, Women & Performance

“This book … suits courses on theatre, race, and performance, and on ethnographic methods. Crucially, this book expands necessary conversations on race and dramaturgy, and ways in which ‘dramaturgical critique’—conscious of racial logics and embodied meanings—might make and repair theatrical and racial worlds.”

— Jasmine Mahmoud, TDR: The Drama Review

Worldmaking is a stunning contribution to discussions of racial representation, affect, ethnography, and practice-led research in our post-racial world. Working to ‘defamiliarize’ American theatre for artists and scholars, the book re-evaluates the dichotomies of theory/practice, artistic passion/compensation, and resistance/complicity that are firmly ingrained in our thinking about the arts. The rigour with which Kondo encourages us to reassess artistic practices and scholarly enquiry, however, never verges on harsh criticism. Instead, it is with stirring generosity that she opens up avenues for further enquiry and redress.” — Jessica Nakamura, Modern Drama

“Kondo demonstrates the power of theatre to address the complexities of race in contemporary America not only through what is seen onstage but also in the processes of rehearsal, revision, and reception, as artists question representational authority and negotiate collaboration.”
  — Josephine Lee, Theatre Journal

"Dorinne Kondo's work recalls us to the indispensable power of creative art and action during times when prospects for persistence are closing for so many. Brave, passionate, and always incisive, Kondo's work paves the way for those who seek to know the link between art and politics for our time." — Judith Butler

"Sitting at the nexus where critical race theory meets affect theory, this breathtakingly ambitious and fascinating book is as much about how racism functions in the theater world as it is a treatise on the production of race as a naturalized discourse. An important contribution." — John L. Jackson Jr., author of Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

"Dorinne Kondo's penetrating and insightful book should be required reading for any theater artist who is serious about confronting racism. She brilliantly reminds us of the power of the theater, and of the real responsibility that comes with that power." — Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dorinne Kondo is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and author of About Face: Performing Race in Fashion and Theater and Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Overture  1
Entr'acte 1. Racial Affect and Affective Violence  17
Act I. Mise-en-Scène
1. Theoretical Scaffolding, Formal Architecture  25
2. Racialized Economies  56
Entr'acte 2. Acting and Embodiment  93
Act II. Creative Labor
3. (En)Acting Theory  97
4. The Drama behind the Drama  130
5. Revising Race  167
Entre'acte 3. The Structure of the Theater Company  205
Act III. Reparative Creativity
6. Playwriting as Reparative Creativity  209
7. Seamless, A Full-Length Play  237
Notes  311
Works Cited  325
Index  349
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