“When the Devil Knocks”, a new book from Prof. Alexander Craft

author photo (RAC - When the Devil Knocks)When the Devil Knocks (book cover with $)











New book, When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in Twentieth-Century Panama , from Renée Alexander Craft, professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Curriculum in Global Studies at UNC.


Despite its long history of encounters with colonialism, slavery, and neocolonialism, Panama continues to be an under-researched site of African Diaspora identity, culture, and performance. To address this void, Renée Alexander Craft examines an Afro-Latin Carnival performance tradition called Congoas it is enacted in the town of Portobelo, Panamathe nexus of trade in the Spanish colonial world. In When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in Twentieth-Century Panama, Alexander Craft draws on over a decade of critical ethnographic research to argue that Congo traditions tell the story of cimarronaje, charting self-liberated Africanstriumph over enslavement, their parody of the Spanish Crown and Catholic Church, their central values of communalism and self-determination, and their hard-won victories toward national inclusion and belonging.
When the Devil Knocks analyzes the Congo tradition as a dynamic cultural, ritual, and identity performance that tells an important story about a Black cultural past while continuing to create itself in a Black cultural present. This book examines Congowithin the history of twentieth-century Panamanian etnia negra culture, politics, and representation, including its circulation within the political economy of contemporary tourism.


PRAISE FOR When the Devil Knocks:

“This beautifully written book focuses on contemporary Panamanian Congo performance in the town of Portobelo and the community‘s negotiations across local, national, and transnational scales of political, economic, social, and cultural interests and pressures.  In attending to these contemporary negotiations, Alexander Craft relates the history of the Portobelo Congo community to the broader history and politics of blackness in Panama. It is this balance between the macro-level history of race in Panama and the
micro-level stories of training, rehearsing, and performing Congo that makes When the Devil Knocks exemplary of the very best that performance studies scholarship can achieve.”
—Ramon H. Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University
“With When the Devil Knocks, Renée Alexander Craft focuses her keenly crafted ethnographic eye on how various kinds of circulation—geopolitical, intra-regional, and continental—have shaped the ways Afro-Panamanians have imagined and represented themselves over time. Hers is a model of engaged and collaborative ethnography, of performative witnessing that is sensitive to historical depth and the generational shifts catalyzed by contemporary neoliberalism. Craft shows us a politics of scholarly practice that truly makes a difference in the world.”
—Deborah A. Thomas, University of Pennsylvania
When the Devil Knocks traces genealogies of Congo performance traditions in Panamanian culture and folklore during 1903–2003.  The author argues that the complexity of black identity in Panama is marked through polyvalent contexts of the Congo ancestral culture, the descendants of the cimarrones (runaway slaves who fiercely fought for their freedom during the Spanish colonial period). Alexander Craft‘s When the Devil Knocks is an original and compelling study that should appeal to those interested in performance studies, critical race studies, anthropology, and Latin American, US Latina/o, and Caribbean studies.”
—Alicia Arrizon, University of California-Riverside

2/20: World Premier Performance by LA POCHA NOSTRA (8pm)

LaPochaNostra (poster#2)

“La Pocha…we are a group of borderless performance artists.”

– Guillermo Gómez-Peña

The core members of La Pocha Nostra—Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Michèle Ceballos Michot, Roberto Sifuentes, Erica Mott, Saul García López, Dani d’Emilia, and Daniel Brittany Chávez—will come together for a one week intensive jam to produce a new work-in-progress.

This world premier marks the first time these seven artists have worked together in equality, or, to use the troupe’s language, the first time these Pochas have gathered to form La Pocha Nostra in one place. This is an experiment in “radical tenderness, clumsy democracy, and horizontal leadership,” Gómez-Peña says.

Founded in 1993 in Los Angeles to formalize Gomez-Peña’s collaborations with other performance artists, La Pocha Nostra is an ever-growing cross-disciplinary arts organization, series of collaborations, and nonprofit, with branches in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. Headquartered in San Francisco, with troupe members living in San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, Toronto, Canada, Chiapas, México, and Barcelona, Spain, the troupe provides a matrix and a forum for artists of various disciplines, generations, and ethnic backgrounds.

Apart from the core members gathering for this residency, La Pocha has 30+ associates worldwide. Their projects range from performance solos and duets to large scale multi-sensory performance installations involving photo, video, sound and projection.

If there is a common denominator, it is their desire to cross and erase dangerous borders between art and politics, art practice and theory, artist and spectator—ultimately to dissolve borders and myths of purity whether they be specific to culture, ethnicity, gender or language.


This performance is open to the public, with free admission.

For more information regarding the performance call (919) 843-7067 or email Joseph Megel
For high resolution photos, further information about this and other La Pocha Nostra projects, email Daniel Brittany Chávez

LaPochaNostra (image only)

In partnership with the Department of Communications Studies, this residency was made possible by (at UNC-Chapel Hill): The Process Series,  the Teatro Latina/o Series, the UNC Program in Latina/o Studies, the Provost Committee for LGBTQ Affairs and (in the community):  Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe,  the Elsewhere Museum, Duke University Art, Art History, & Visual Studies

UPDATE: Oscars Preview with Profs. Dana Coen & Scott Myers RESCHEDULED for 2/19


oscar preview update from FLYLEAF


Oscar night (2015) flyer

New collection of original essays, co-edited by Prof. Kumi Silva, published Jan 2015

Feminist Erasures (2015)


Feminist Erasures presents a collection of original essays that examines the state of feminism in North America and Western Europe.

It focuses on a range of cultural and political contexts to interrogate the apathy toward, erasure of, and interventions in feminist discourse and analysis from popular and political culture. In providing a scholarly critique of feminism’s erasure from various social and political contexts, including news media, popular culture, labor, motherhood, and feminist activism, this collection makes visible the systematic marginalization of women and women’s rights in contemporary culture. (from the back cover synopsis)


available through IndieBound and Amazon Books



WSS application period runs February 1st – March 1st


2/13 & 2/14: The Process Series Presents “Geomancy”



ProcessSeries_Geomancy FLYER

Prof. Sarah Sharma speaks in Amsterdam at the MyCreativity Sweatshop

S.Sharma (MyCreativitySweatshop, Nov2014) - 1 S.Sharma (MyCreativitySweatshop, Nov2014) - group












In November 2014, Professor Sarah Sharma took part in a panel at the MyCreativity Sweatshop in Amsterdam, at the Institute of Network Cultures; the panel was called “My Creativity, Your Depression”and addressed Serendipity & Creativity (details and synopsis below).

A write-up of the talk has since been published and can be found here.


S.Sharma (MyCreativitySweatshop, Nov2014) - MCS logo

MyCreativity Sweatshop: A reality check on the creative industries
Talks, Discussions, Art, Workshops, Performances

20-21 November 2014, @TrouwAmsterdam
Wibautstraat 127, 1091 GL Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

My Creativity, your Depression

Value creation in the networked economy is increasingly characterized by flexible and ephemeral relationships. We often imagine creative workers and entrepreneurs as cheerful explorers, engaged in the day-to-day fun of building new networks and having unexpected encounters leading to a ceaseless stream of discoveries and inventions. Work is serendipitous play with financial success coming to everyone who knows to combine flexibility and ‘passion’. Yet, what are the real costs – psychologically, culturally and economically – of a serendipitous mode of production that is predicated on the aleatory and ephemeral. Why is it that so much that is presented to us as innovative and creative smacks of vacuous repetition and mere simulation of novelty? This panel tries to look behind the imaginary of contemporary labor/entrepreneurship as a game of innovation, driven by fancy-free yet passionate creatives. (excerpted from the website’s panel-summaries, found here)

Panelists: Pek van Andel, Sarah Sharma, Mark Fisher

Prof. Tony Perucci interviewed for “Peace & Change” journal


Peace&Change logo (Jan2015)

Peace&Change cover (Jan2015)


Communication Studies Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Tony Perucci, was interviewed in May 2014 by Andrew Barbero.  This interview was published in the January 2015 issue of the journal Peace & Change.



“On May 2, 2014, I (Barbero) conducted a wide-ranging interview with Tony Perucci, who delivered the keynote presentation, “The Complex and the Rupture: Paul Robeson and Cold War Performance Culture,” at the Peace History Society’s 2013 conference. Our conversation went well beyond recapping Perucci’s intriguing analysis of Robeson’s theatrical “performances”, to taking an in-depth look at Robeson as an agent of peace- and justice-making within the “Cold War Performance Complex.” In addition, Perucci describes how political theater interrupts systems of hegemonic power, and he offers reflections from his own experiences as a performer, director, writer, and academic on the transformational potential of strategically rendered activist art and rigorous, engaged scholarship.”


read the interview here (website format) or here (PDF)

Gharpure – Honors Thesis Performance (Jan 30 & 31)

Gharpure Thesis (poster)(Jan2015)


An Honors Thesis Performance will take place in Bingham 203 on January 30th (7 p.m.) and January 31st (4 p.m.).  Admission is free.


TO STRIKE ROOTS, directed by Comm Studies major Renu Gharpure

Inspired by Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories about the Indian immigrant, this short performance piece follows the cultural struggle of the children of Indian immigrants in the U.S., as they try to find a place of belonging between two cultures–the one of their ancestors and the one of their country of birth.



Reviews are in for FREIGHT (Dir. Joseph Megel)

FREIGHT alphonse-howard-joseph (Jan2015)

Actor, playwright, director: J. Alphonse Nicholson, Howard L. Craft, Joseph Megel, on the set of FREIGHT. Photo: Nick Graetz.



Five Points Star “Nine days into the new year and I have to tell you that the production is likely at the end of the year to be on the short list of year’s best, such is its momentum.”

News & Observer “Even those who’ve witnessed the impressive trajectories of playwright Howard L. Craft and actor J. Alphonse Nicholson over the years will likely be unprepared for their stunning convergence in ‘Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green’.”

Frank Stasio, host of NPR’s The State of Things, talks with playwright Howard L. Craft and performer J. Alphonse Nicholson about the show Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green

Indy Week “Director Joseph Megel has achieved exceptional results in previous outings with this actor and playwright. Here, he unsurprisingly pulls the best out of both, in a show that makes us wonder what the next stop is on our culture’s mystery train.”