CFP: Special Issue of Performance Matters / Sound Acts: Unmuting Performance Studies

Marci McMahon 's picture
Call for Publications
May 15, 2019
United States
Subject Fields: 
Theatre & Performance History / Studies, Race Studies, Sexuality Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies

CFP: Special Issue of Performance Matters 

Sound Acts: Unmuting Performance Studies 


Let’s jam. If the history of performance studies has been a slow dance with “how to do things with words,” (J.L. Austin), then this special issue is an introduction to “how to do things with sound”. Luminaries working between sound and performance studies have entreated scholars to move beyond sound as a purely aesthetic object of study, harkening our ears towards understanding fault lines of power surrounding categories of difference (Brooks and Kheshti, “The Social Space of Sound,” 329-335). 


This special issue of Performance Matters places theater and performance on the map in sound studies by tracing out how sound acts. “Sound acts” underscores how sound inaugurates bodies and power, and how bodies and power in performance produce meanings and significations for sound. For this special issue of Performance Matters, we solicit scholarly essays, sonic performance scripts, interviews with or manifestos from sound artists and practitioners that investigate sound as an aesthetic possibility and mode of resistance for minoritarian subjects. Our publication will be field defining in coalescing the sonic reverberations emerging in theater and performance studies. 


Over the past decade, scholarship by and about people of color, as well as queer, indigenous, trans, and disability scholars has contributed exemplary studies of radical performance through sonic modes of analysis. This emergent work decenters the rapidly normalizing trend of sound studies as a white, able-bodied, masculinist, technological, and presentist enterprise, and has contributed theories of “sonic slave narratives” (Brooks), Latinx “sounds of belonging” (Casillas), the radical aesthetics of “the break” (Moten), black feminist “sonics of dissent” (McMillan), indigenous “sonic sovereignty” (Piatote), America’s “sonic color line” (Stoever), and “listening in detail” (Vasquez). Our special issue moves beyond reception studies to pump up the volume on theatre and performance studies methodologies, prioritizing the close analysis of embodiment, drama, and socio-cultural and political mise en scène of sound. This is a move that pays attention to sound in performance, how sound is an enactment of the body, and how sound shapes the listening body: how sound acts. What does sound do? What does sound stage? What are the new stages for sound in theatre and performance studies? 


We’re interested in cultivating submissions around sound as it intersects with: 

● Asian American studies 

● Latinx studies 

● African American and Afro-diasporic studies 

● Black studies 

● Indigenous studies 

● Critical race studies 

● Crip studies 

● Queer studies 

● Transgender studies 

● Transnational feminist studies 

● Critical disability studies 

● Global south studies 

● Circum-Atlantic studies 

● Post/decolonial studies 

● Theater/performance history (particularly methods for performance analysis pre-1900) 


We solicit scholarly essays (7,000-9,000 words), sonic performance scripts and/or artists manifestos, and interviews (1,000-3,000 words). Submissions and inquiries should be e-mailed to by 15 May 2019


Accepted submissions will be notified by mid-June and the co-editors will send feedback by mid-July. Authors should be prepared to commit to revisions during summer 2019, followed by a public symposium and additional publication workshop at the University of Maryland in September 2019. Submission for external peer review will follow, with a tentative date of publication slated for May 2020.

Contact Info: 


Patricia Herrera (University of Richmond) 

Caitlin Marshall (University of Maryland College Park) 

Marci R. McMahon (The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley)