Interview with Tavia Nyong'o, conducted by Diana Taylor, founding director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. This interview is a part of a series curated by the Hemispheric Institute, articulated around the question 'What is Performance Studies?' The series aims to provide a multifaceted approach to the often difficult task of defining the coordinates of both a field of academic study as well as a lens through which to assess and document cultural practice and embodied behavior. The contingent definitions documented in this series are based on the groundbreaking experiences and the scholarly endeavors of renowned figures in contemporary performance studies and practice.
Tavia Nyong'o is Associate Professor in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. He graduated in Social Studies at Wesleyan University, and later obtained his Doctoral degree in American Studies at Yale University. Professor Nyong’o is a cultural historian with a focus on racial formation in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. He has taught courses on black performance, on the history of the body, and on subcultural performance. He has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad, and has published reviews and essays in Social Text, Theatre Journal, GLQ, TDR, and Women and Performance. He is also the web editor of Social Text. Professor Nyong'o’s research interests include the intersections of race and sexuality, visual art and performance, and cultural history. He also investigates on performance in the black diaspora, cultural studies, queer and feminist theory, and history and memory. His book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (University of Minnesota Press 2009), investigates musical, aesthetic, and political practices that conjoined blackness and whiteness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Professor Nyong’o’s fellowships and honors include the Marshall Scholarship; the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship; the Ford Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship; the Graduate Fellow from the Center for Humanities at Wesleyan; and the Graduate Fellow from the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University.