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.

Moving Together: Migration, Periperformativity and Collaboration

Paper delivered at The Between: Couple Forms, Performing Together. Department of Performance Studies, NYU. 2018. Co-written and co-presented with dancer and educator Vanessa Vargas.

In 2016, latina student Tiffany Martinez’ professor wrote the following in one of her papers: “This is not your language”. She also highlighted her use of the word “hence”, suggesting she was practicing plagiarism. Martinez’ experience resonates with many migrants’. This professor’s response exemplifies what J.L. Austin denominated explicit performative utterances, those that beyond meaning something, do something. As a response, Tiffany Martinez published a post that sparked a wider conversation on discrimination in academia, with people sharing similar anecdotes or standing with her in solidarity. After J.L. Austin, Eve Sedgwick, poet, scholar, and educator, became interested in other type of utterances, those that go around the imposition of roles that comes into effect with the explicit performatives, she named these periperformative utterances. In this lecture-performance, we examine some explicit performatives that migrants are commonly subjected to and the role of alliances and collaboration in developing or strengthening periperformative responses to them. Amidst the precariousness of being deterritorialized, of being a migrant, calling ourselves “us” (“nosotras,” in Spanish), activates a new kind of presence, a specific way of being and doing: it potentiates the idea of a couple with poetic and political potentialities, belonging to each other while not-belonging together. As a women-couple in this context, we want to explore the periperformative potentiality of the duo and of collaboration as as a liminal, intimate place, a territory that potentiates creation, imagination, friendship and the commons.

Full paper available upon request.

Making Space for Others: Disability, Subjectivity, and Acknowledgement in Adrienne Asch and Fernand Deligny

Paper delivered at Breaking Through: Textures and Aesthetics of Rupture–English Student Association Graduate Conference. The Graduate Center, CUNY.

In the article “Critical Race Theory, Feminism, and Disability: Reflections on Social Justice and Personal Identity” (2001), Adrienne Asch, disability scholar and proponent of the model of disability as human variation, argues that what people perceive as disability is often the result of adverse environmental conditions that cause differences in performance by privileging certain types of bodies over others. The model of disability as human variation frames impairment as a universal condition and suggests that environmental accommodations can facilitate the integration of disabled bodies to the productive apparatus. This paper argues that Asch’s support of the model of disability as human variation follows a neoliberal logic in that it equates validation with productivity and it fails to consider alternative modes of validation for beings who experience severe forms of disability that foreclose any possibility for the “productive subject” to emerge. Following, it examines Adrienne Asch’s model of disability as human variation alongside the work of Fernand Deligny, French philosopher and psychologist who between the 1960s and 1980s led a series of experiences in communal living with profoundly or “non-functional” autistic children. His project attempted to explore modes of being outside the subject, outside language and interpretation. Although his work remains unknown to many, several post-Foucauldian theorists of subjectivity including Deleuze and Guattari, Giorgio Agamben, Erin Manning, and Brian Massumi have picked up his thoughts on other ways of being in the world. This paper yuxtaposes Deligny’s and Asch’s approaches to disability to think about validation of beings beyond functionality and to imagine what it would mean to assume the responsibility of guaranteeing environmental conditions that allow for other modes of existence to emerge and thrive.

Full article available upon request.

The Question of the Subject in Times of the Quantified Self

Delivered as a paper presentation at First Forum 2016 ­- Subjected to Play: Locating the Subject in the Promise of Play. Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference. USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Revised version published in Spectator. Vol 38, No. 1, Spring 2018


Digital self-tracking is a contemporary phenomenon that started making waves around 2007 and ten years later is reaching its climax. It consists in using digital devices to monitor some aspect(s) of one’s life–from sleep, geographical movements, and exercise routines, to emotions and even sex performance–in order to understand and improve oneself. The Quantified Self(QS) is the default name journalists use to refer to these practices, even when the QS community is only a subgroup of self-trackers–one that is guided by the motto “self-knowledge through numbers”. The range of practices that today fall under the category of digital self-tracking is very wide, however, all of them usually share essential elements: they use digital technologies to do some type of monitoring of the self, most of the data is gathered through bodily indicators, and they tend to have a quantitative focus –if not in the nature of the data collected, in its aggregation and presentation. The paradox is that digital self-tracking is becoming a cultural phenomenon precisely when concepts of humanity and self are being called into question (Braidotti, Pettman, Esposito, Haraway, Stiegler). In this paper, I examine the growing popularity of digital self-tracking through the theories of three authors that problematize the concept of the subject–Michel Foucault’s, Vilém Flusser’s, and Bernard Stiegler’s. I also elaborate on how specific self-tracking practices can be analyzed as specific examples of abstract strategies to deal with the contemporary crisis of the subject proposed by these authors. Finally, I conclude by trying to resituate digital self-tracking in the context of the anthropocene, the posthuman, and the inhuman.

Full paper available upon email request.