The Between: Couple Forms, Performing Together

Deadline: October 1, 2018

Guest Editors:

Olivia Michiko Gagnon, PhD Candidate, Performance Studies, New York University
James McMaster, PhD Candidate, Performance Studies, New York University

This special issue of Women & Performance invites co-authored submissions that seek to explode that stalwart object of queer and feminist analysis: “the couple form.” Typically regarded in its normative instantiation as that sexual, romantic, and social unit of relation that sits as a colonial imposition at the core of the bourgeois nuclear family, the couple form is tied to well-worn fantasies of the good life as well as to the violent suppression of other forms of kinship. In calling for a proliferation of coupled collaborations, however, this special issue—by way of a movement from “the couple form” to couple forms in their infinite variation—asserts that the couple form is neither a known quantity nor an exhausted entity. What modes of intellectual practice, erotic exchange, political work, and aesthetic experimentation happen uniquely within couple forms, in their most capacious and non-self-same iterations? What queer and feminist work can they do? How might they function, to use poet Catriona Strang’s (2017) term, as “structures of possibility”? But also, what might they foreclose or disallow? What, in other words, is possible in the infinity between one and two?

Honoring the inextricability of form(s), content(s), and method(s), “The Between: Couple Forms, Performing Together” resists academic siloing, models of individual authorship and originality, and calcified conceptions of mastery, which lead to masculinist and colonialist fantasies of invulnerability (Singh 2018). This resistance takes its inspiration from recent interventions in critical theory—most notably Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman’s Sex, or the Unbearable (2014) and Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (2013)—which are exemplary in their performative interweaving of form, content, and method. It is our hope that a sustained attention to what Moten (2015) describes as the “intense interaction that comes with playing with others”—to writing and other forms of aesthetic production “in which [...] one composes in real time with other people[,] [...] where one is discomposed in real time”—will open out onto other ways of writing, living, and working, animated by what Sara Ahmed (2004) calls “feminist wonder” (182): an openness to what might be, to our capacity to be affected, and to the dawning of new feminist futures.

We invite a variety of couples—significant others, friends, (critical) duets—to submit scholarly essays ranging in length from 3000–8000 words. Experimentation is encouraged. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Ruminations on and performances of friendship, particularly female, femme, and/or queer friendship

  • Sovereignty and nonsovereignty from perspectives as varied as affect theory, psychoanalysis, and indigenous studies

  • Aesthetic Couple Forms: duets, improvisations, collaborations, etc.

  • Couple forms of particular relevance for minoritarian feminisms

  • Caring relations

  • Sex

  • Non-Normative Space-Times of Coupledom

    • Temporalities of coupledom (i.e., the one-night stand, the date)

    • Distances/Proximities of coupledom (i.e., the epistolary, the long-distance relationship, roommates)

  • Pedagogical scenes and scripts: accounts of advisor/advisee and teacher/student relations

  • Dissonant Duels: the break-up, the falling out, the divorce, the feud, and other antagonisms

  • Discourses and practices of (non) consent

  • Inhumanist and Posthumanist Pairings: dog & owner, lion & tamer, gardener & garden, host & parasite

  • “Posthumous collaboration” (MK Gagnon 2014): ghosts, ancestors, archives, transmission

All submissions and any inquiries can be directed to the co-editors at

For additional submission guidelines please click here

Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Berlant, Lauren and Lee Edelman. 2014. Sex, or the Unbearable. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Gagnon, Monika Kin. 2014. "Unfinished Films and Posthumous Cinema: Charles Gagnon's R69 and Joyce Wieland's Wendy and Joyce. In Cinephemera: Archives, Ephemeral Cinema, and New Screen Histories in Canada, edited by Gerda Cammaer and Zoe Druck, 137-58. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Press.
Moten, Fred. 2015 "An Interview with Fred Moten." Interview by Adam Fitzgerald. Literary Hub. August 5.
Moten, Fred and Stefano Harney. 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions.

Singh, Julietta. 2018. Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Strang, Catriona. 2017. "'Constellations and Contingent Networks': Nancy Shaw's Structures of Possibility." Introduction to Shaw, Nancy. The Gorge: Selected Writing, edited by Catriona Strang. Vancouver: Talonbooks.

James McMaster is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at New York University. His dissertation, Minor Respite: the Performance of Care in Queer and Feminist Asian America , argues that a just arrangement of caring relations requires a conceptual and political movement beyond normative forms of care's distribution such as the nation-state and the family. James has previously worked as the Managing Editor for TDR: The Drama Review and is currently the Book Reviews Editor at Women & Performance, where he has also published. At present, James serves as the Co-Political Chair of GAPIMNY, a New York City-based organization dedicated to empowering queer and trans Asian Pacific Islander communities.

Olivia Michiko Gagnon is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at New York University. Her dissertation, Archival Entanglements: Re/Encountering History in Contemporary Feminist, Queer, and Decolonial Art & Performance, explores how the archive is taken up in contemporary feminist, queer, and decolonial art and performance in ways that enact modes of feeling historical and historical feeling predicated upon entanglement. She holds an honors BA from the University of Toronto in English Literature and Drama, and an MA from Performance Studies at NYU. She is Managing Editor of Women & Performance, and Managing Editor of HemiPress at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.