In 2010-2011, we produced a special issue of the journal Performance Research (vol. 16, no. 2) based on the theme of the Performing Publics conference in Toronto, 2010. Many contributors developed work presented at the conference and a few pieces were commissioned from artists and scholars who have been doing interesting work on this topic. The editors of the issue were Melanie Bennett, Laura Levin, Marlis Schweitzer, and Richard Gough.

This collection explores how the term “public” has reverberated through performance studies by taking up several genealogies and meanings of the term. More importantly, it demonstrates how a performance studies perspective can revise, extend, challenge and enliven existing notions of publics and publicness and offer new strategies for thinking about and engaging with global transformations. Performance Studies has helped to frame the idea of “public” as an imagined social totality and as a performative relation between individuals. This sense of the term resonates with what Michael Warner has famously dubbed “publics” and “counterpublics,” calling to mind the complex processes by which individuals avow and disavow membership within various groups, discourses, and social worlds. The contributors to this collection examine the enactment of “public” both as a form of social activism—a means rehearsing, querying, and producing alternative forms of local and global citizenship—and also as a form of social legitimation and exclusion. They remind us that the idea of “public” is inseparable from the body and argue for the centrality of affect in moving beyond public/private binaries and in articulating political identities.

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Image from previous page: Shana MacDonald + Angela Joosse, Dear Ruth, an installation included in The Leona Drive Project, curated by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow (October 2009). The Leona Drive Project is featured in the Performance Research issue described above. Photo by Jason Paris