Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice

Catherine M. Cole
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.

Praise / Awards

  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • "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
  • Dance Studies Association 2021 de la Torre Bueno Book Prize Honorable Mention (DSA)

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Featured on My View by Robyn Sassen and other writers | 01/10/2022

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
  • 18 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12701-6

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  • South Africa, dance, apartheid, transitional justice, contemporary African dance, performance studies, African studies, post-apartheid, cultural studies, memory, black performance theory, black studies, aesthetics, black dance, black theater, performance art, live art, Robyn Orlin, Brett Bailey, Mamela Nyamza, Jay Pather, Gregory Maqoma, Sello Pesa, Faustin Linyekula, Athol Fugard