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2023 Lambert Conference: Object Relations

The Department of Performance Studies Presents the Lambert Family Conference in Communication:

Object Relations: Performance & Race at the Edge of Theory 

May 19th – 20th, 2023

Co-Sponsors: The Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Council for Race and Ethnic Studies, and the Cluster in Critical Studies in Theatre and Performance

Joshua Chambers-Letson, Daisy Donají Matias, Lakshmi Padmanabhan

This symposium draws together scholars and artists working between performance studies and media studies with work that centers race and racialization as forms of material and libidinal relation. The field of performance studies, particularly at Northwestern, has a long history of theorizing racial difference as central to its intellectual project. At the same time, the discipline has drawn on the theoretical frameworks of psychoanalysis and Marxism, two intellectual traditions that have come under increasing criticism for inadequately theorizing race and racial difference. Rather than stage this conversation as performance studies and critical race studies vs Marxism and Psychoanalysis, this symposium posits performance studies and media studies as fields of intellectual encounter fostering productive conceptual tensions as well as novel approaches to constituting race as an object of study within performance and media studies. Featuring a range of formats from traditional scholarship to creative practice, the symposium will include roundtable discussions, a keynote artist lecture by Nao Bustamante, and a keynote performance Keioui Keijaun Thomas .

Friday, MAY 19, 2023

Annie May Swift Hall, Krause Studio (Room 110): 1920 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL, 60208


Nadine George Graves, Department Chair and Naomi Willie Pollard Professor of Performance Studies, Northwestern University


Joshua Chambers-Letson, Professor of Performance Studies, Northwestern University

Daisy Donají Matias, Doctoral Student in Performance Studies, Northwestern University

Lakshmi Padmanabhan, Assistant Professor of Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University


Chair: Lakshmi Padmanabhan

Iván A. Ramos, Assistant Professor of Theater Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University
Breaking Down, Breaking Together: Xandra Ibarra’s Nude Laughing and the Ethics of Encounter

Summer Kim Lee, Assistant Professor of English, UCLA
A Bitter Therapeutic and Other Selfish Ends

Joshua Javier Guzmán, Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, UCLA
Missing Sex and the Limits of Queer of Color Critique

11:15 am: LUNCH BREAK


Introduction: Bimbola Akinbola, Assistant Professor of Performance Studies, Northwestern University

Nao Bustamante, Professor of Art at the USC Roski School of Art and Design
The Mothership and Innerspace

1:30 pm: BREAK

1:45 pm: LECTURE 1

Introduction: Miriam J. Petty, Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the Graduate School and Professor of Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University

Malik Gaines, Associate Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego
Proximate Objects

2:30 pm: BREAK


Chair:  Joshua Chambers-Letson

Kelly Chung, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Williams College
Dominique Fung and the Surrealism of Asiatic Rest

Brittnay L. Proctor, Assistant Professor of Race and Media, The New School
“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”: A Brief Soundtracking of Black Migration in 1956 America

Ethan Fukuto, Doctoral Candidate in Performance Studies, Northwestern University
Patty Chang’s Thirst and the Autoerotic Minoritarian

4:00 pm: BREAK

4:15 pm: LECTURES 2 & 3 (DUET)

Introductions: Archita Arun, Doctoral Student in Performance Studies and Ishan Mehandru, Doctoral Students in Comparative Literature

Avgi Saketopoulou, psychoanalyst and faculty in the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
Beyond Repair: On the Sadism of Performance 

Amber Jamilla Musser, Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center
Apocalypse and Approximation: The Politics of Allora y Calzadilla’s Cadastre 

5:30 pm: Reception

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, Room 201: 1949 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL, 60208


Keioui Keijaun Thomas
Come Hell or High Femmes

Bimbola Akinbola Bimbola Akinbola is Chicago-based artist and scholar, and an Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Working at the intersection of African diaspora studies, performance, and visual culture, her creative and scholarly work is concerned with kinship and belonging, gender performance, and affect in the African diaspora. Bimbola is currently working on her first book manuscript, Transatlantic Disbelongings (under contract with Duke UP), which examines disbelonging and diasporic homemaking in the creative work of contemporary Nigerian diasporic women artists. Her essays have also been published in Text and Performance Quarterly and Women Studies Quarterly. Bimbola’s visual art and performance work has been supported by the La Napoule Art Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and she has collaborated on creative projects with universities across the country in partnership with the Dance Exchange.

Archita Arun (she/her) is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer, and singer from India. She is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Performance Studies. As part of her artistic practice, Archita works with oral histories to ponder questions of (be)longing, memory, love, and loss. In her research, Archita studies minoritarian performances of pleasure, desire, and refusal centered in particular around questions of identity formation in the South Asian diaspora. Her areas of research include media studies, affect theory, queer of color critique, and minoritarian performance theory. Archita holds a B.A. in Theater and Creative Writing from NYU Abu Dhabi.

Nao Bustamante is a legendary artist, residing in Los Angeles, California. Bustamante’s precarious work encompasses performance art, video installation, filmmaking, sculpture and writing. The New York Times says, “She has a knack for using her body.” Bustamante has presented in Galleries, Museums, Universities and underground sites all around the world. She has exhibited, among other locales, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the New York Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sundance International Film Festival/New Frontier, Outfest International Film Festival, El Museo del BarrioMuseum of Contemporary Art, First International Performance Biennial, Deformes in Santiago, Chile and the Kiasma Museum of Helsinki. She was also an unlikely contestant on TV network, Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” In 2001 she received the Anonymous Was a Woman fellowship and in 2007 named a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, as well as a Lambent Fellow. In 2008 She received the Chase Legacy award in Film (In conjunction with Kodak and HBO). And was the Artist in Residence of the American Studies Association in 2012. In 2013, Bustamante was awarded the (Short-term) CMAS-Benson Latin American Collection Research Fellowship and also a Makers Muse Award from the Kindle Foundation.  In 2014/15 Bustamante was Artist in Residence at UC Riverside and in 2015 she was a UC MEXUS Scholar in Residence in preparation for a solo exhibit at Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles. In 2020 Bustamante’s forthcoming VR film, “The Wooden People” received a producing grant from the Mike Kelley Foundation, and the National Performance Network and will be presented at REDCAT in 2021. 2021 also brought her success with her new research project, “BLOOM,” in which she is determined to redesign the speculum and take a stern look at the history of the pelvic examination. “BLOOM” has been supported by COLA (City of Los Angeles) fellowship, an Artpace Residency, and a USC Arts and Humanities award. Bustamante is alum of the San Francisco Art Institute, and in 2020 she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from her alma mater, SFAI. She also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Currently she holds the position of Professor of Art at the USC Roski School of Art and Design.

Joshua Chambers-Letson is Professor of Performance Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (winner of the 2019 Outstanding Book Award from the Association of Theatre in Higher Education and the 2019 Erroll Hill Award from the American Society for Theatre Research) and A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (winner of the 2014 Outstanding Book Award from ATHE); co-editor of José Esteban Muñoz’s The Sense of Brown with Tavia Nyong’o and of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital with Christine Mok; and series co-editor of NYU Press’s Sexual Cultures series with Tavia Nyong’o and Ann Pellegrini. In addition to a host of publications in scholarly journals, art writing appears in publications for the Whitney, MoMA, the 57th Venice Biennale, the Block Museum, SCHUNCK, the Haus der Kulturen der Velt, and SAVVY Contemporary. JCL is currently at work on a monograph about the art of queer love and loss and is presently the 2022-2023 Thinker in Residence with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.

Kelly Chung is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Williams College. She is currently working on her first book manuscript tentatively titled A Feminism of Inaction: Racial Abstractions of Living Labor, which traces how contemporary artists of color deploy aesthetic forms of inaction to challenge spectatorial demands for political action, labor resistance, and revelation. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Art Journal, liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies, ASAP/Journal, and Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory among others. She received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University.

Ethan Fukuto is a PhD candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. He is currently working on a dissertation that explores the relationship between loss, lack, and passivity in contemporary queer Asian American art. His writing and research broadly explore notions of relationality and subjectivity across psychoanalysis, performance studies, Asian Americanist critique, queer theory and queer of color critique. Ethan is from Los Angeles, CA and holds a BA in Media Studies from Pomona College.

Malik Gaines has written many articles and essays about art and performance in journals, periodicals such as Artforum, and for museum books and artist monographs published by MoMA and many others. His book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017) followed the routes of radical political ideas through performances of the 1960s. He is working on a second book dealing with contemporary art and performances that act against the limits of U.S. sovereignty. Gaines has performed and exhibited extensively with the group My Barbarian – whose 2021-23 survey exhibition and performance series toured from the Whitney Museum in New York to the ICA Los Angeles – and in other collaborations. He is co-artistic director of The Industry opera company. He is associate professor of Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego.

Nadine George-Graves is the Naomi Willie Pollard Professor at Northwestern University where she chairs the Department of Performance Studies and has a joint appointment in the Department of Theatre. She also serves as Executive Co-editor of Dance Research Journal. Her work is situated at the intersections of African American studies, critical gender studies, performance studies, theatre history, and dance history. She is the author of The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters and the Negotiation of Race, Gender, and Class in African American Theater, 1900-1940 and Urban Bush Women: Twenty Years of Dance Theater, Community Engagement and Working it Out as well as numerous articles on African American performance. She is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater, a collection of border-crossing scholarship on embodiment and theatricality. She has also written on primitivity, ragtime dance, tap dance legend Jeni LeGon, identity politics and performance, competition, social change, early African American theatre, and the future of performance in the academy. She has given talks, led community engagement projects, and has served on many boards and committees. She is a past-president of the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD). George-Graves is also an artist, and her creative work is part and parcel of her research. She is an adapter, director and dance theatre maker. Her recent creative projects include Architectura, a dance theatre piece about the ways we build our lives; Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A and Topdog/ UnderdogAnansi The Story King, an original adaptation of Anansi stories using college students, professionals, and 4th graders; and Sugar, a digital humanities project at the nexus of creativity and scholarship.

Joshua Javier Guzmán is Assistant Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Gender Studies and Chair of the LGBTQ Studies Program at UCLA. He received his Ph.D. in Performance Studies at New York University and is a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow from UC Berkeley’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. Joshua’s first book-length project is titled Dissatisfactions: Queer Chicano Style Politics, examines Chicano stylized discontents with both the US nation-state and also the activism responding to systemic state violence within a very contentious post-1968 Los Angeles, forthcoming from NYU Press. He is currently working on his second monograph titled Brown Exposures: Queer Photography and the Literary Aperture, which is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writers Grant.

Summer Kim Lee is an assistant professor of English at UCLA. She is completing her first monograph currently titled, Spoiled: Hostile Forms and the Matter of Asian American Aggression, which traces the significance of hostility for contemporary Asian American artists and writers who challenge the expectation that their work should offer sites for healing and repair. She is co-editor of a special issue of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory titled, “Performances of Contingency: Feminist Relationality and Asian American Studies After the Institution.” She has published work in Social Text, ASAP/Journal, Post45, GLQ, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The Nation. 

Daisy Donaji Matias is a Oaxacan-American writer, curator, and interdisciplinary scholar from Richmond, Virginia. Daisy works at the intersection of performance theory, psychological anthropology, and new materialism to consider the transformative potential of the imagination in the work of minoritarian artists who aim to transform subjectivity and corporeality through attentional practices such as meditation and hypnosis. Daisy holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master’s degree from the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, where she is currently a PhD student.

Ishan Mehandru is a graduate student in the Comparative Literary Studies program with a home department in Asian Languages and Cultures at Northwestern University. They are interested in women’s writings in South Asian literature, sexuality, masculinity, and translation studies.

Amber Jamilla Musser is Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, sexuality, and aesthetics. She is the author of Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism (NYU Press, 2014), Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance (NYU Press, 2018), and the forthcoming Between Shadows and Noise: Sensation, Situatedness, and the Undisciplined (Duke University Press, 2024).

Lakshmi Padmanabhan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Radio, Television, Film at Northwestern University. She is the editor of the forthcoming volume, Forms of Errantry, on the experimental films of Miryam Charles and co-editor of the special issue, “Performing Refusal/Refusing to Perform” of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. Her current book project examines the aesthetics of counter-cinema and the failed dreams of decolonization in India from 1980 to the present. Her academic writing is published and forthcoming in journals including Camera Obscura, JCMS, Women & Performance, Art History, and New Review of Film and Television. Her essays, criticism and reviews have been published in Seen, Public Books, Jewish Currents, and Post45. She has programmed film and moving image art at a range of venues including the Block Museum, BRIC Arts, AS220, and e-flux. She earned her Ph.D. in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College, 2018-2020.

Miriam J. Petty is Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the Graduate School at Northwestern, and Associate Professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film. She is a current member of the National Film Registry’s Film Preservation Board, a past juror for the Chicago International Film Festival and has served as consultant for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for African American History and Culture. She writes and teaches about race, stardom and performance and is especially interested in the history of African American representation in Hollywood film. Her award-winning book, Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood (University of California Press, 2016) is a recalibrated history of early “golden age” Hollywood. Stealing the Show centers the careers of players like Hattie McDaniel and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to illuminate the problems and possibilities of early Black stardom.

Brittnay L. Proctor is a researcher and writer of performance, popular culture, and sound/visual culture at the nexus of blackness, gender, and sexuality. She is an Assistant Professor of Race and Media in the School of Media Studies at The New School (NY, NY) and the author of Minnie Riperton’s Come to My Garden (Bloomsbury Press: 33 1/3 Series). She is currently working on two book projects; one of which soundtrack’s black Southern migration to California during the Second Great Migration and the other, which draws on LP records and Compact Disc’s (CD’s), to trace the sonic and visual discourses of gender and sexuality in funk music.

Iván A. Ramos is assistant professor in the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown, and works at the nexus of performance studies, queer and feminist theory, Latina/o/x American Studies, and media and film studies. Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, Iván’s broader research investigates the links and slippages between transnational Latino/a American aesthetics in relationship to the everydayness of contemporary and historical violence. In particular, he is interested in how the aesthetic may provide a way to engage with an ethics of difference. His work has been supported by fellowships from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the National Humanities Center and the Ford Foundation. In addition, his writing has appeared in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latina/o Literature, Third Text, Women & Performance, ASAP/Journal, among others. His first book, Unbelonging: Inauthentic Sounds in Mexican and Latinx Aesthetics will be published this Summer by NYU Press.

Avgi Saketopoulou is a clinical psychoanalyst based in NY. A bicultural immigrant from Cyprus and from Greece, Avgi trained and is now on faculty at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, where she teaches courses on polymorphous perversity. Her work has received several awards including the annual Essay Prize of the American Journal of Psychoanalysis and she is co-recipient of the International Psychoanalytic Association’s first Tiresias award. Avgi has been interviewed for the Freud Museum’s permanent collection in Vienna. Her first monograph, Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race, Traumatophilia (Sexual Cultures Series, NYU Press) was going to be the only book she ever wrote. But then, she accidentally had to write another: Gender Without Identity, co-authored with Ann Pellegrini, is forthcoming in spring 2023 from The Unconscious in Translation Press. Her love for psychoanalysis is rivaled only by her love of motorcycles.

Keioui Keijaun Thomas (b. Florida) is based in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA with honors from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Thomas is the inaugural winner of the Queer | Art 2020 Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists and a 2018 Franklin Furnace Fund recipient. Check out the artist’s Instagram here.