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Northwestern School of Communication

Joshua Chambers-Letson

70 Arts Circle Drive
Room 5-153
Evanston, IL 60208
Joshua Chambers-Letson

Joshua Chambers-Letson is a writer and performance theorist who researches and teaches courses in performance studies, critical race theory, and queer of color critique. His books and essays place performance studies in conversation with a diverse set of fields including black studies, Asian American studies, art history, and critical theory to theorize the role performance plays in the making and remaking of worlds for Black, brown, Asian, queer, and trans ways of being and becoming. In his most recent book, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, 2018), Chambers-Letson tells the stories of queer and femme of color artists (Nina Simone, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Danh Võ, Felix González-Torres, Eiko, and Tseng Kwong Chi) who mobilize performance in the service of emancipation and survival, using performance to keep their dead alive, and with them, in the struggle to survive an increasingly precarious present. In A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian American (NYU Press, 2013), he argues that the law influences racial formation by compelling Asian Americans to embody and perform recognizable identities in both popular aesthetic forms (such as theater, opera, or rock music) and in the rituals of everyday life. He is currently at work on two (provisionally titled) book projects: Object Relations, a study of relationality, race, and repair in the scene of contemporary performance art and, Take My Breath Away, a meditation on sex, death, and the aesthetics of queer love and loss.

With Tavia Nyong’o he is the co-editor of José Esteban Muñoz’s The Sense of Brown (Duke University Press, 2020). Twice a winner of the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education in 2019 and 2014 for After the Party and A Race So Different, he is also the recipient of the 2019 Errol Hill Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. His cademic writing has appeared in edited volumes and journals including Social Text, Political Theory, Criticism, Cultural Studies, MELUS, and women & performance. Art writing has appeared in catalogues for Teching Hsieh’s exhibition at the 2017 Venice Bienale and the Chrysler Museum/Grey Art Gallery’s Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera, as well as Dirty Looks, The Brooklyn Rail, ASAP/J, and the Walker Reader. With Ann Pellegrini and Tavia Nyong’o he is a series co-editor of the Sexual Cultures series at NYU Press. He received his PhD from New York University in 2009 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Humanities from 2009-2010.


PhD, Performance Studies, New York University
MA, Performance Studies, New York University
BA, Liberal Arts, Eugene Lang College of the New School

Selected Publications

Access a selection of publications here, including:

After the Party:A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life. NY: New York University Press, 2018

A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America.NY: New York University Press, 2013

Co-edited with Tavia Nyong’o, The Sense of Brown by José Esteban Muñoz. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.

“The Body is Never Given nor Do We Actually See It” in Race and Performance after Repetition, Ed. Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones Jr., and Shane Vogel, Durham, NC: Duke University press, 2020: 270-291

Co-authored with Ann Pellegrini and Tavia Nyong’o, “Forward: Before and After” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity 10th Anniversary Edition by José Esteban Muñoz, NY: New York University Press, 2019: 9-16

“Twelve Notes on Ferguson: Black Performance and Police Power” in Law and Performance, Ed. Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2018:207-237

“The Queer of Color’s Mother: Ryan Rivera, Audre Lorde, Martin Wong, Danh Vō” TDR: The Drama Review. (62: 1, T237, Spring: 46-59) 2018

“Withdrawal” in Tehching Hsieh: Doing Time, ed. Adrian Heathfield. (Venice, IT: La Biennale de Venice) 2017: 36-44

“Contracting Justice: The Viral Strategy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres” in Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts.(Vol 51, 4: 559-587) 2010

Selected Courses

PERF-ST 515: Asian American Aesthetics and Performance
PERF-ST 515: Marxism and Performance
PERF-ST 515: The Archive and the Body
PERF-ST 515: Staging Sovereignty, Performing Power
PERF-ST 515: Performing Racial Exception
PERF-ST 330: Censorship and the Culture Wars
PERF-ST 216: Performance and Culture