Dance and live art in contemporary South Africa and beyond


 In the aftermath of state-perpetrated injustice, a façade of peace can suddenly give way, and in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, post-apartheid and postcolonial framings of change have exceeded their limits. Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice reveals how the voices and visions of artists can help us see what otherwise evades perception. Embodied performance in South Africa has particular potency because apartheid was so centrally focused on the body: classifying bodies into racial categories, legislating where certain bodies could move and which bathrooms and drinking fountains certain bodies could use, and how different bodies carried meaning. The book considers key works by contemporary performing artists Brett Bailey, Faustin Linyekula, Gregory Maqoma, Mamela Nyamza, Robyn Orlin, Jay Pather, and Sello Pesa, artists imagining new forms and helping audiences see the contemporary moment as it is: an important intervention in countries long predicated on denial. They are also helping to conjure, anticipate, and dream a world that is otherwise. The book will be of particular interest to scholars of African studies, black performance, dance studies, transitional justice, as well as theater and performance studies.

Catherine M. Cole is Professor of English and Dance and Divisional Dean of the Arts at the University of Washington.

“Catherine Cole reminds us that understanding the uses and abuses of embodied performance in post-apartheid South Africa is a key component of understanding sites of possibility at the nexus of social justice and the performing arts. Deftly navigating genres and artists, Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice provides rich, persuasive, and nuanced close analyses of performance in order to challenge us to reconsider important concepts like time, restoration, the law, kinesthesia, stasis, isolation, naming, history, meaning, and closure among others in many of the small and grand reckonings of contemporary South Africa.”
—Nadine George-Graves, The Ohio State University

- Nadine George-Graves, The Ohio State University

“Cole writes at her very best with eloquence and empathy and with a keenly critical eye. Her exposition of dance and the ‘afterlives of injustice’ is compelling and makes a strong contribution to an area where the South African artistic achievement has not been well explored. She is breaking new ground here.”
—Liz Gunner, University of Johannesburg

- Liz Gunner, University of Johannesburg

“Argues strongly for the ways in which embodied performance can excavate hidden, disavowed, or simply past atrocities and injustices that result in ongoing violence. These practices change perceptions of the past in the present and make entanglements visible, while challenging the status quo.”
—Yvette Hutchison, University of Warwick

- Yvette Hutchison, University of Warwick

"When you know, from the first few phrases of a book, that you are in good and powerful storytelling hands, the rest of the text sings beyond the confines of its pages. This is the kind of experience you can anticipate in Catherine Cole’s foray into South African dance, Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice..."
My View

- Robyn Sassen

"Cole’s book does the important work of demonstrating the significance of these artists and their theoretical and performance work for contemporary academic conversations. Moreover, she collaboratively imagines with these artists how to generate a theoretical language and toolset to go about the continual and nonlinear process of decolonization." 
Theatre Journal

- Theatre Journal

"By critically engaging with African American scholarship, Cole adds valuable commentary to existing critical paradigms such as ‘interculturalism’ or ‘interweaving’ to challenge facile notions of reconciliation that often operate to protect white privilege in these debates. As such, Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice presents a much-needed critical reckoning with the unreconciled histories of colonial and racial trauma very much alive in today’s multiple political crises, and will be of relevance to performance scholars, students, cultural theorists, and artists alike."
New Theatre Quarterly

- New Theatre Quarterly

"In her deftly argued study on dance and live art in apartheid’s wake, Catherine Cole makes three very important interventions: she refuses facile assessments of the contemporary performing arts landscape in favor of considering nuanced complexities and multiple truths; she bridges the disciplines of theatre and dance in her embodied, kinesthetic analyses; and she focuses on the work of dance artists of color who have long deserved such scholarly attention."
TDR: The Drama Review 


"Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice is a hugely welcome addition to a comparatively understudied field."
Theatre Survey 

- Theater Survey

Honorable Mention: Dance Studies Association (DSA) 2021 de la Torre Bueno Book Prize

- DSA de la Torre Bueno Book Prize

"Cole’s evocative prose and transportive performance descriptions make Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice both readable and imminently valuable for expanding the study of dance and live art in the Global South. Its profering of new archives through detailed description and exegesis makes this book useful to both scholars of postcolonial performance and students of non-Western performance modalities."
Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

- Carla Neuss

Watch: Book Talk at the University of Washington | 02/01/2022
Read: Featured on My View by Robyn Sassen and other writers | 01/10/2022