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Melissa Blanco Borelli 

Melissa Blanco Borelli

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2017/18

Melissa Blanco Borelli is Senior Lecturer in the Drama, Theatre & Dance Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (Oxford University Press, 2014) and author of She Is Cuba: A Genealogy of the Mulata Body (Oxford University Press, 2015), which won the Society of Dance History Scholars’ De La Torre Bueno Prize for best book in Dance Studies 2016. Other publications include chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Competition (forthcoming 2017), The Oxford Handbook of Screendance (2016), Black Performance Theory (Duke University Press, 2014), and Zizek and Performance (Palgrave, 2014). Her articles have appeared in Women and Performance, and the International Journal of Screendance. Her research usually combines her interests in black diasporic cultural production, popular dance on screen, film and media, feminist historiography, and Latin American creative practices. As part of her creative practices she works as a choreographer and dramaturg for small-scale productions, most recently at the Tate Modern, London; she also directs plays (For Coloured Girls by Ntozake Shange, an upcoming reimagining of Euripides’ Hippolytus) and writes historical fiction centred on mixed race women in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. 

Research Project

Decolonial Cool: Performances of Race, Gender and Identity in Latin America

Decolonial Cool examines the multiple ways that the idea of ‘cool’ manifests through performance practices within Latin America and its diasporic subjects in Europe. It particularly examines how a “decolonial aestheTic” as defined by Walter Mignolo enables Latin American artists and their performance practices to engage with histories of coloniality and its side effects. By focusing on the ways in which Latin American cultural practices materialise through my critical frames of site/sight, sound, bodies, words and affects, this project interrogates what it means to decolonize aesthetics, knowledge production and identities/subjectivities. Part of the project pays particular attention to the intersection of blackness within discourses of Latin American identity and aesthetics. While I understand that the genealogy of the term cool emerges from a particular set of circumstances within black experience in the United States, I do not intend to circumscribe it there. Instead, I invoke the ‘aestheTic of the cool’ as a type of black and/or decolonial sensibility that offers different considerations on subaltern identity negotiation. I engage with a broad diasporic interdisciplinarity in order to think through how Latin@s (in and outside of Latin America) make their embodied experiences legible, valuable, tangible and ultimately knowable through aestheTic practices.

Recommended Publications

  • Blanco Borelli, Melissa. She is Cuba: A Genealogy of the Mulata Body. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

  • DeFrantz, Thomas and Anita Gonzalez, eds. Black Performance Theory. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

  • Mignolo, Walter. “Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom,” in Theory, Culture, and Society, Vol. 26 (7-8): 1-23, 2009.

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung