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Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith Paperback – March 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Enacting Others is both an important primer on performance and an exploration of the U.S. obsession with race and its formations. Through impressive studies of four artists, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Nikki S. Lee, Cherise Smith examines the remarkable reach of the embodied idea and the use of strategies from conceptual art to traditional theater, and tactics from cross-dressing to minstrelsy. Smith’s voice is a welcome addition to writing on contemporary art. It will redefine how we understand performance’s ability to display and address differentials of power.”—Kellie Jones, author of EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art

“Cherise Smith writes eloquently against the notion of post-identity politics, using her understanding of the persistent ‘politics of identity’ to trace the boundary-crossing practices of these four important artists. Smith discusses spectators’ identification strategies, but keeps an astute critical eye on the material corporeal circumstances of living within identity at this particular historical moment. From minstrelsy to passing, drag to embodiment, Smith parses theoretical tropes to study performance as a laboratory for experiments with human identity. Using personal memory and theory alongside political insights, the book treats a useful range of examples, from popular culture, to film, to art historical performance, to performance in everyday life. Enacting Others makes a vital contribution to gender and critical race studies.”—Jill Dolan, author of Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater

“Smith carefully contextualizes the work of the artists within the their art-historical milieus while arguing for the limits of these framings. This [is a] careful contextual consideration.”
(Patricia Ybarra American Literature)

“Smith’s study helps us continue necessary discussions of how to stage our struggles against oppressions of all kinds, as well as to contend with the limitations of our own vision.”
(Jayna Brown Art Journal)

“I welcome Smith’s willingness to grapple with the ambivalent feelings these artworks provoke.”
(Helena Rickitt Times Higher Education Supplement)

“Smith avoids models of progressivism or generational overthrow in favor of a cool, evidence-based analysis. Following the artists’ tactics, the book moves from the relative simplicity of declaring singular, marked identity as a political position, through acknowledgment of intersectionality, to a universalist turn toward humanism, ending with postidentity positionalities. The strength of Smith’s analysis is that it is alert to the continuing evolution of the politics of identity in art.”
(Margo Hobbs Thompson Signs)

“Smith’s clear prose and sharp-eyed observations make this book more than worthwhile for any reader. It leaves one pondering further how race is performed, staged, read, and recognized in the projects of an intriguing collection of important artists.” 
(Jennifer DeVere Brody Modern Drama)

Enacting Others offers a timely reminder of how shifting notions of identity have vitally shaped, and continue to reshape, American art and politics. Contributing to studies of race and gender, performance studies, and art history, Enacting Others explores how boundary-crossing performances by four prominent artists engaged with contemporaneous discourses about identity.”
(Ju Yon Kim Theatre Journal)

Enacting Others is one of the most intriguing art history books in recent years. . . . This is a book of tremendous importance that will do much to advance our understandings of not only the four artists under consideration but also the cultural, artistic, social, and political particularities of the moments in which their work was produced.”
(Eddie Chambers Nka)

About the Author

Cherise Smith is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.


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