“After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life” by Joshua Chambers-Letson— Performance Artists of Color

Chambers-Letson, Joshua. “After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life”, NYU Press, 2018.

Performance Artists of Color

Amos Lassen

“After the Party” brings us   the stories of minority artists who use “performance to produce freedom and sustain life in the face of subordination, exploitation, and annihilation.” The work of Nina Simone, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Danh Vō, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Eiko, and Tseng Kwong Chi, Nao Bustamante, Audre Lorde, Martin Wong, Assata Shakur, and Nona Faustine are the focus and we look at performance as it is produced within and against overlapping histories of US colonialism, white supremacy, and heterosexual patriarchy. Joshua Chambers-Leston builds on the thought of José Esteban Muñoz and other scholars of queer of color critique, black studies, and Marxist aesthetic criticism and presents a portrait of performance’s capacity to produce what he calls “a communism of incommensurability, a practice of being together in difference.”

Performance is seen here as a rehearsal for new ways of living together, and the book covers slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, the first wave of the AIDS crisis, the Vietnam War, and the catastrophe-riddled horizon of the early twenty-first century to consider this practice as it is born of the tension between freedom and its negation. With urgency and pathos. Chambers-Letson argues that it is through minority performance that the dead are kept alive while we struggle to survive during a “precarious present.” 

This is a beautifully written consideration of the collective functions of performance for more livable black and brown, queer and trans worlds. It is presented in a series of readings of various forms of performance across the twentieth century and is both a treatise and a handbook for queer and trans of color survival. The book is also a reflection on mourning, care, and being together. We become very aware of the violence of neo-liberalism, racism, and homophobia.

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