Dodging Potholes While Bombing Downhill on Crutches: Periperformative Pedagogies in Bill Shannon's Work

Paper delivered at the conference Practicing, Training, (Re)Thinking, and Questioning Emancipatory Pedagogies – Current Discussions and Debates. ESPE Paris, Sorbonne University. Paris, France.

This paper examines Bill Shannon’s multidisciplinary work through Eve Sedgwick’s theory of periperformativity to articulate and illustrate what periperformative pedagogies look like. By doing so, it aims to contribute to the discussion elicited by questions central to this conference including current developments of emancipatory and critical pedagogies, as well as their potential to dismantle oppressive systems and create a more just society.

Bill Shannon is an American multimedia artist, mainly known for his dance and public performance work. His experience growing up with a hip degenerative condition and his interest in street and hip-hop culture have led him to depart from abled-body movement and develop a repertoire of his own. In his public performances, Shannon plays with what he calls “ambiguity of disability,” combining actions from his everyday life with dance movements in improvisational sequences that are read by some as display of mastery and by others as physical struggle. He is interested in people’s reactions to his presence and movement, which become generative opportunities for him to turn power dynamics around. This paper frames Bill Shannon’s work as an instance of what queer artist and educator Eve Sedgwick called periperformative utterances; those that respond to and are always in aberrant relation to a performative utterances (Austin) that try to impose labels and power relations on those involved in the communicative act. There is an undeniable pedagogical potential to Shannon’s work, which he has explored more explicitly in his body-movement workshops that target both experienced dancers and individuals with disabilities. This article uses this case study as the starting point to argue that the reparative impulse in periperformatives and its educational potential deserve to be explored and formulated not only in but beyond Bill Shannon’s work. 

Full paper available upon request.