The Unsettling Approaches to Performance Studies Reading Group was torn out of concerns about departmental courses in relation to racialized modes of knowledge production, the study group centralizes critical race approaches to Performance Studies. Some topics include Afro-Pessimism, Black Optimism / Operations, Critical Whiteness Studies, Critical Indigeneity, Queer of Color Critique, Women of Color Feminism, Dance Studies, Post-Colonial Caribbean and / or Post-Colonial Black Atlantic, and Queer and Crip Studies.

The study group is a collaborative space, where participants’ research interests are
foregrounded in the readings, discussions, and projects. The group works toward unpacking some of the ways in which race structures knowledge production and operates in often treacherous and seemingly invisible ways.

The past two years this course was run over one quarter as a reading group. Feel free to peruse previous syllabi:
Unsettling PFS syllabus- Fall 2014

Unsettling PFS Syllabus- Fall 2013
This year the group will meet three times a quarter with an invited guest speaker or practitioner around the general theme of unsettling practices.

2015’s Unsettling Performance Studies convenes artists, scholars and scientists around the theme of unsettling practices. Practice is a site where inquiry and technique, ontics and epistemics, experimentation and formalization, and creativity and repetition converge. This year’s course invites the critical cultivation of skills that can disturb, stir up, and set into motion the sedimented relations that make up what and how we know and do. How might practices be unsettled? What makes a practice unsettling?

2015/2016 Presenters:

Monday November 2nd PFS Forum Lunch
Presenter: Keith Hennessy, on Contact improvisation, queer and critical race studies.

Monday November 23
Presenter: NAKA dance company

Debby Kajiyama and Jose Navarrete will talk about their collaboration with Eastside Arts
Alliance and the residents of East Oakland in their project called The Anastasio Project. The Anastasio Project is a multidisciplinary public performance work that kickstarts an investigation of racial profiling, police brutality, and border violence. Presented in collaboration with Eastside Arts Alliance.

November 30th
Presenter: Sam Aranke

Sampada Aranke is a graduate of Performance Studies at UC Davis and Assistant Professor of History and Theory of Contemporary Art at SFAI. Aranke has been widely published and is currently working on a manuscript entitled Death’s Futurity: The Visual Culture of Death in Black Radical Politics.
Presentation: Skin to Piss: A Very Brief History of 1970s Black Conceptual Performance

Stay tuned for talks/ labs presentations from:

Feb 12 or Feb. 15-
Presenter: Dana Michel (tentatively confirmed)

Michel’s critically acclaimed work “Yellow Towel” will be showing at CounterPulse Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, 2016 in San Francisco.

Feb 16:
Presenter: Natasha Myers

Unsettling STS working group
Myers will talk about her work called Ungrid-able Ecologies. Ungrid-able Ecologies is a research/creation project on the 10,000 year old happening that is an oak savannah in Toronto. She is developing a sensory/affective/queer/feminist/urban political ecology in collaboration with movement, film, and sound artists.

Feb 2016

Postcommodity is an interdisciplinary arts collective comprised of Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist. Postcommodity’s art functions as a shared Indigenous lens and voice to engage the assaultive manifestations of the global market and its supporting institutions, public perceptions, beliefs, and individual actions that comprise the ever-expanding, multinational, multiracial and multiethnic colonizing force that is defining the 21st Century through ever increasing velocities and complex forms of violence. Postcommodity works to forge new metaphors capable of rationalizing our shared experiences within this increasingly challenging contemporary environment; promote a constructive discourse that challenges the social, political and economic processes that are destabilizing communities and geographies; and connect Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination with the broader public sphere.


Wednesday April 27
Presenter: Brenda Dixon Gottschild 4pm
In partnership with African American & African Studies department Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Professor Emerita of Dance from Temple University, is a major black dance studies scholars of our time. To familiarize with Dr. Gottschild’s work, please visit her bio website at:
She will give a talk called “Racing” in “Place”: Dance Studies & the Academy.”

Below you will resources, including readings and audio recordings from visiting artists. Feel free to use these resources in your artistic, pedagogical, and intellectual practices!


Click here to access readings from Fall 2013. (The readings are organized by weeks. Refer to the syllabus for citations.)


Fred Moten (UC Riverside)- “Blackness and Nothingness,” November 4, 2013.

Scott Tsuchitani- (San Francisco) “Unsettling ‘The Asian’: Interventions in Orientalism,” November 12, 2013.

Amara Tabor-Smith- (UC Berkeley) Visiting Artist Lecture, December 3, 2013