"Function at the junction"? African diaspora studies and theater studies

Sandra L. Richards*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


To specify a relationship between African Diaspora Studies and Theater Studies is in one sense to draw a map, but it soon becomes apparent that one can not get there from here, for African Diaspora Studies has, at present, little connection to or visibility within Theater Studies. Unable to pinpoint the place or official site of conjuncture, I offer instead an itinerary by which we may arrive at a space where the practice of diaspora and theater meet in their pursuit of the cherished objective of enacting community. 1 Given the consistent conflation of Performance Studies with Theater Studies, the essay first reviews disciplinary distinctions that determine the object of study and status of evidence. As will become apparent, the dominance of the written text in Theater Studies has negatively predisposed the discipline toward African Diaspora Studies, a fact that the subsequent review of doctoral dissertations and recent publications confirms. The essay then turns its focus outside the academy in order to offer a brief survey of the emergence within the arts of an Afrocentric perspective that necessarily assumed diaspora, understood as cultural continuity between an original source culture and descendant societies produced by forced migration and adaptation to hostile new environments. This Black Arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s would provide infrastructural resources for contemporary Black Theater and Black Performance Studies in the United States. But because its definition of diaspora tended in practice to be oriented toward ritual and/or the past, the essay then turns to a brief reading of texts, selected so as to highlight questions of memory and bodily archives, circulation, translation, imagination, and reinvention that are central to how diaspora is currently understood. Finally, it proposes routes that African Diaspora Studies scholars may opt to travel in further shaping an interdisciplinary field that through its rigorous self-reflexivity, conceptualizes itself not as the colonizing center of the map of.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe African Diaspora and the Disciplines
PublisherIndiana University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780253354648
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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