Postcolonial Body Performance Narratives (PBPN) – What is it? PBPNs diversely engage postcolonial themes, theories, theologies, and realities from decidedly situated perspectives and irreducibly treat bodies and lived experiences as multidimensional sites from which to theorize postcolonial corporeality. Attention to the body is more than just a flirtation with the idea of the body as a metaphor, something that would be good to “use.” The PBPN forum seeks to provide a space to re-member the stories of lived experience.

Living in a body marked by race, class, sexuality, ability, class, religion, etc. under the policing of the “normal” is to live under the threat of being submitted into silence. These silences even haunt the discourses on the body and lived materiality.

“ […] I lived disoriented for quite awhile
that my privilege would not
protect me
from bodily brutality
especially not
as woman.
Especially if
I seek
Anything More
than surface-level change
Not smiling nicely
asking politely
for some crumbs from your table
But sitting in the street
With others
Of many colors […]”
PBPN author Julie Todd


Bodies are breathing, hurting, bleeding, weeping, laughing, living, dying. Bodies are a site of trauma – physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, sexual. Bodies are made to serve purposes of colonization, imperialism, objectification, representation. The voice of the body, the “I” of lived experience, risks being silenced by the unspeakable of experience.

“[…] In one corner, closest to the entrance way through the house, that’s where I collapsed, when doña Maria and the other aj’kij’2 came and cleansed, and washed, and prayed, and named and remembered the things that these walls, that these doors saw. Terrible things, when the generals and colonels – their bloody hands – lived in this house, their sleeping quarters, away from the base, during the worst years of the genocide. Here the walls and doors remember things, says doña Maria, and I am overcome with an impulse to vomit, and to here lay down in defeated tears. She struck me with rue, and brought me back and we all came down, and we broke bread, and ate beans in bowls, and were quiet. […]”PBPN author Emilie Teresa Smith

But our bodies’ stories, our bodies’ performance of living life under the circumstances we find ourselves in, are a production of memory, of telling the remembered stories stored in bodies, scars, artifacts, poems, dances, rituals, and other expressions.

“[…] Days after January 12, 4:53:10pm when the earthquake ravaged my birth country, I told one of my dearest friends that part of me secretly wished I could just go on top of Wesleyan University Foss Hill, get on my knees, raise both arms in the air and just scream on top of my lungs until I was totally spent.

Just don’t let anybody see you, he warned me. We laughed it out and talked about consequences of being deemed unhinged. Indeed, the last thing I need is for people to think I have come undone. I am already outside of the box and something of an endangered species. I am a tenured black woman.  A black Haitian woman at that.  A black Haitian woman who has always spoken her mind way before tenure. A black Haitian woman without a recognizable last name as I like to say to those unfamiliar with my birth country’s class and color politics. […] Though I was trained as a cultural anthropologist, I cannot afford to lose it, and certainly not in public. I am also an activist, a poet/performance artist and multi-media artist.

So, I did the next best thing, I consolidated all my energies and exposed my pain and rage on stage. […] PBPN author Gina Athena Ulysse

To talk about the body, about our bodily experience, to talk through our bodies, is to invite scorn. To talk through and about our bodies is to risk being accused of narcissism and essentialism. It is in our bodies that we are situated in and subjected to the world. And so our bodies are not only the site, but also the strategy of deconstructive and constructive critique of social structures and systems, as well as of theories.

“[…] I wasn’t passing as white because I wanted to. I was passing as white because of the misconceptions of others and the fact that continually correcting those misconceptions was not only exhausting, but also impossible. How would I introduce myself at parties? “Hi, I’m Natalie – oh, and by the way, I’m bi-racial”? That’s not sustainable!

But the alternative entailed being privy to more types of racism than I could imagine. White racists, thinking I was on their team, would let something slip or, worse, wouldn’t realize they were racist – like the little old lady outside Cape Town. Black racists openly expressed disdain for passers, without realizing I was passing among them.[1] Such privy continually implicated me in narratives that weren’t mine. Each forced from me a story I didn’t feel like telling. […]” PBPN author Natalie Wigg-Stevenson

“[…] The discursive and behavioral strategies that I have employed to keep myself safe and sane are numerous and contextually contingent. Ironically, it is in the plurality of those strategies that I have found some measure of emancipation. I have recognized that the socially constructed terrains of identity that I occupy never contain all of me, though they may contain parts of me. My racial identity is part of me, but not all of me. At times, it frees and enables me to be in a certain way, while at other times it binds and restricts me. In reality, I always already dwell in excess of these identity categories, explode them, collapse them, and yes, shore them up. It is in these interstitial, liminal, and hybrid spaces that I have lived my life and will most likely continue to do so as I endeavor to resist power just by being and being vastly.[…]” PBPN author Jason Craige Harris

We negotiate social situations daily, always in our bodies. In these embodied struggles we are already vulnerable to expectations, presumptions, violences of all sorts. Yet narrating these struggles publicly, as our so-far published PBPN authors have done, is to go beyond “admitting the body” in writing. It is to reveal the personal wrestling with the ambiguous facts and fictions of our bodies, of the histories our bodies are born into, and the questions embodied experiences today pose to us.

“[…] You see, reconciling the body and living these multiple schizophrenic identities has undoubtedly shaped my personality.
You see, the familiar feeling of the string above tightening swiftly followed by an involuntary loosening of my neck into a nod has been a regular occurrence.
You see, growing up a multi-racial West Indian who went to public school in “a good part of Queens” then a “bad part of Brooklyn” then a “mad rich, mad white prep school in the LES” has really done very little for the emotional life of a youth on the brink of adolescence.
You see, feeling like the exception in the room has been the norm for many, many years, so much so that it feels strange to blend in as part of the endless waves. […]”
PBPN author Cheryl Walker

We do not experience bodily life in the same manner, nor can we express our experiences in the same ways. Body narratives challenge the limits of theories that seek to make embodied experiences a curiosity or irrelevant to abstracted notions. To name our bodily experiences, to narrate ourselves on our own terms, is an act of resistance and of solidarity.

We invite you into the acting out of our bodies!

For a differently detailed description of PBPN’s and submission guidelines, please go to