Royona Mitra and Broderick D.V. Chow The UCLA Letters: On Dismantling Whiteness in the Academy

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Glorya Kaufman Hall Room 208

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Over the last few years Broderick Chow and Royona Mitra have been working in coalition (with each other and other scholars) within and outside of their institution Brunel University London to dismantle the whiteness of our disciplines, our curriculum content and the scholarship that feeds them. Efforts have included organising anti-racism symposium, delivering keynotes at postgraduate conferences, undertaking anti-colonial and anti-racist research projects, curating panels led by scholars of colour, leading curriculum review within the Department of Arts & Humanities in conversation with students, and questioning senior management and power structures of universities, editorial boards and research organisations about their roles in upholding whiteness in the academy. Central to Chow and Mitra's endeavours has been the drive to equip our next generation of scholars with anti-colonial and anti-racist tools as part of their research training. Preparing for this presentation has enabled Chow and Mitra to reflect critically on their collective actions and commitments as scholars of colour in the UK, working through their shared and diverging positionalities and perspectives through a series of letters that they have written to each other through this autumn term.

The form of the letters enables a reflection on the dialectics of coloniality and decolonization, as fissures, cracks, and contestation in their thinking are revealed. While the project begins from a shared commitment, the dialogue rarely rests in agreement, but moves capriciously across concepts, events, and thinkers. The extended temporality of letter writing also reveals the intersection of conceptual, scholarly thinking with the personal, as the writers write across and through embodied encounters, transitions to new jobs and roles, family histories, and bereavement. The UCLA Letters are therefore a choreography, a kind of pensée à deux about coloniality, anti-racism, and the academy. We argue that perhaps the best way of overcoming the paralysis that grips the scholar of colour in the face of the whiteness of the academy is more movement; what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney might characterise as fugitivity, but we, as Performance Studies scholars interested in embodiment, might simply call dance.


Broderick D.V. Chow is currently Reader in Theatre, Performance, and Sport at Brunel University London. From January 2020, he will take up a new position as Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching and the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London, where he will be directly working on questions of equality, anti-racism, and inclusion within a specialist conservatoire-university setting. His research concerns questions of theatricality, performance, and the sporting body, and he is also interested in Filipino popular performance, hybridity, and neo-colonialism. He has published in journals including Theatre Journal, TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, and Contemporary Theatre Review. He is co-editor of Performance and Professional Wrestling and is currently co-editing a new volume entitled Sports Plays.

Royona Mitra is Reader in Dance and Performance Cultures at Brunel University London where she chairs the Equality and Diversity Working Group for the College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences. She is the author of Akram Khan: Dancing New Interculturalism (Palgrave; 2015), which was awarded the 2017 de la Torre Bueno First Book Award by Dance Studies Association (DSA) and the 2016 Runner-up for the New Career Research in Theatre/Performance Prize by Theatre & Performance Research Association (TaPRA). Her scholarship contributes to discourses on ‘new interculturalisms’ at the intersections of embodiments, race, gender, and decolonialities in performance. She has published in Dance Research Journal, Performance Research Journal, Feminist Review, Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Royona is currently a Co-Investigator on the British Academy funded small-grant project ‘Contemporary Dance and Whiteness’ alongside Simon Ellis (Coventry) and Arabella Stanger (Sussex), examining contemporary dance and/as racism.

Sponsor(s): World Arts & Cultures/Dance, Mohindar Brar Sambhi Chair of Indian Music

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