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Call for Articles

Journal of Dramatic Theory & Criticism Special Section: Race & Fantasy

Deadline March 31, 2022, publication Fall 2022

That the constructs of “race" have no identifiable biological bases has been widely accepted in academic circles, but the revelation of race as phantasmatic obviously does not undo race’s real structuring effect on contemporary (and historical) society. Theatre scholars and practitioners well know that the imaginary, the fantastical, and the feigned (that is, theatre and the theatrical) have always had the capacity for real effect and affect—commanding capital, attention, and political import.

Ellen Samuels coined the phrase “fantasies of identification” in her eponymous book to describe the persistent irrational belief that various markers of ability, race, and gender can be medically or scientifically located on the body, even as these attempts are always eventually thwarted. For Samuels, the ‘fantasy’ (the unreal, unrealizable wishful thinking) resides (seemingly paradoxically) in the quest for scientific, irrefutable empirical truth. In a much broader sense, however, we might argue that hegemonic western theatre’s engagement with race has been fundamentally imbricated with a much more basic notion of fantasy for centuries: the act of fictionalizing and dramatizing imagined scenarios of racial and cultural otherness is foundational to the legacy of staged entertainment. Just a short list of staged race fantasies might include Shakespeare’s Moors and Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, the candy-themed world tour of The Nutcracker ballet; British pantomime and blackface minstrelsy and their heirs: Broadway musicals like Porgy & Bess, The King & I, Flower Drum Song, and Miss Saigon.

Theatres' racial fantasies have endured up and down fortunes over the years—hailed as fascinating, funny, alluring, or exotic entertainments, as important means of learning about and appreciating global “Others,” or as fair representation of a multicultural society. The vast majority of recent critique (both on and beyond theatre) has rightly articulated manifold ways that representations from authors and performers of “different” backgrounds are problematic. However, for an art form premised on the power and truth-value of falsity and fiction, theatre must necessarily have a more nuanced relationship to the notion of “true” representation when it comes to race. In this special section, we invite article inquiries into race & fantasy, with the lessons of colorblind everyone-is-equal multiculturalism, correctives regarding accuracy and the importance of employing authors, performers, and theatre management from diverse backgrounds all in mind.

In what ways has and does theatre employ fantasies or fictions of race to rehearse or enact justice? How can examining theatre account for or mediate between the enduring role of fantasy in the creation of racial norms and ideas? Through examining theatre, can we forge new insights into the structuring role of fantasy, fakery, and imagination in subject and identity formation? Which plays, playwrights, performers, or companies are forging new ways to think through race & fantasy in the 21st century?

For full consideration in the special section, authors should first send an inquiry and/or abstract to the editor for feedback and discussion, then completed article drafts will be due March 31, 2022. The special section is slated for publication in the Fall 2022 issue. Inquiries are welcome. All correspondence and proposals should be directed to Dr. Michelle Liu Carriger at carriger@ucla.edu. Additional information about style and guidelines for JDTC authors can be found at JDTC Submission Guidelines.

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