Black performance theory (bpt) helps us decipher the imperatives of black-
ness. Translating the meanings of blackness by excavating the enlivening
enactments that sustain blackness, theory does the labor of translating the
thick ontologies of what black imperatives are by locating them within the
generative forces of performance. With each generation, perhaps with each
turn of a phrase, we stake a new claim within a new world order for the
nature and signifi cance of blackness. Black performance theory complicates
old claims of blackness, because life is change and the world keeps turn-
ing, demanding new vocabularies and new actions. Blackness is born and
reborn as something uniquely itself, in stark diff erence against that which
it is not, and in comforting familiarity with those things that are itself. To
say something diff erent and new about blackness, about it having a nature
or a decipherable core, is serious work because it is head spinning in its
contradictions and contingencies. Black performance theory shows us how
each unfolding or iteration of what blackness is can be constituted by per-
formance and revealed within unlimited performance frames.
Th is volume transforms black ontologies and imperatives into the lived
realms of time, space, and action: bodies, machines, movement, sound, and
creation now culminate within temporalities of struggle and renewal. Black
performance theory shows us how subjects and subjectivities animate black-
ness across landscapes that are all spectacularly excessive in the cause and ef-
fects of African dislocation, imperialist trade, capital accumulation, human
violence, and black abjection as well as circum- Atlantic expressions, black
labor, Africanist retentions, black diaspora movements, the politics of black
is beautiful, and more.
In deciphering the imperatives of blackness, bpt becomes an opposi-
tional move within a matrix of disciplining powers reigning over the black
body. Because it deepens the details of black expressivities and transgres-
sions within the abiding contexts of disciplinary histories and circulations
of inequality, bpt translates all of this within fl uid rubrics of performance,
FOREWORD
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