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  • Editorial Comment:Feminist Methodologies at Play
  • Sean Metzger and Vabianna Santos

Discourse concerning the Atlanta Spa Shootings, which happened around the time that this issue first started to come together in March of 2021, has renewed the urgency of thinking about performance and feminism together.1 Given that this issue's publication roughly coincides with the first anniversary of those murders, the violent events in Atlanta have loomed in the background of the editorial process. Moreover, although the essays in this issue address quite distinct forms of performance and paratheatrical phenomena from state surveillance to fan groups to online participatory audiences, all of the essays use feminist methodologies either explicitly or implicitly. Therefore this editorial highlights some of their convergences to think through how the interventions of each author might speak to a feminist knowledge project that is critical in this historical moment.

As an interlocutory text, Laura Hyun Yi Kang's Traffic in Asian Women (2020) contextualizes the recent case of feminicide in Atlanta, given that most of the victims of the shootings were women of Asian descent. Kang's book articulates concerns that resonate in sometimes surprising ways with the essays hereafter and the larger role that feminist inquiry has played in Theatre Journal. As the title suggests, Kang expands on several sources, including Emma Goldman's 1910 essay, "The Traffic in Women"; the League of Nations reports from 1927 and 1932 on traffic in women and children, as well as later UN documents dealing with overlapping issues; and Gayle Rubin's 1975 essay, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex." This last essay has long invigorated studies of feminism, theatre, and performance.2 Thus Traffic in Asian Women and Rubin's work that Kang's title inevitably recalls (and which Kang engages at length) offer analytical paradigms that help readers to understand the feminist import of the essays that follow, as well as their relevance now.

Briefly, Rubin argued that Karl Marx's account of class oppression remained insufficient in describing the oppression of women and the larger sex/gender system as an ideological apparatus. As an anthropologist, Rubin turned to Claude Lévi-Strauss to reveal how kinship structures rely upon the exchange of women in societies to facilitate and normalize heteronormative patriarchal power. In turn, Lévi-Strauss's own invocation of the incest taboo led Rubin to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan as thinkers who further illuminated sexuality's incorporation into what Rubin called "sex" oppression. She ultimately called for the reorganizing or rewriting of such social scripts, and offered the provocation that scholarship—on the order of what Friedrich [End Page ix] Engels had attempted in his The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State—might generate an understanding of how women's oppression manifests at all levels of social organization and might provide tools for their reengineering.

Kang "argue[s] for historicizing both the sweeping reach and the blind spots of Rubin's 1975 essay," among other texts.3 She sees Rubin's work "as indicative of how U.S.-Anglophone feminist research and theory in the 1970s seized upon new possibilities and expansive horizons of feminist knowledge production in ways that were propelled by a broader but culturally particular epistemological disposition . . . this feminist will to global authority was enacted amid a changing political economy of globalization and the new international division of labor, which revealed and magnified stark gaps and inequalities between women."4 Kang's book continues to reveal how Asian women as a category has particularly animated discourses of and related to trafficking within wide-ranging contexts. Books like Kang's offer a productive hesitation in invoking the first person plural. She illuminates the instrumentalization and interrogation of this pronoun, which both promises and threatens to bind people together.

Dani Snyder-Young also explores this understanding of "we" as a potentially performative utterance because of its frequent invocation in theatre, particularly during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her lead article in this issue looks at digital performances during the beginning of the pandemic precisely to investigate the constructions of community proffered in two recent works: Mike Sears and Lisa Berger's...


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pp. ix-xiii
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