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Dr Michael Shane Boyle

Michael Shane

Lecturer in Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies



Before beginning as a Lecturer in the Department of Drama in 2014, I held postdoctoral appointments in the United States at Stanford University and Harvard University. I earned a BA in English (high distinction) at Duke University and received my PhD in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley with a dissertation on the use of performance by New Left political movements in 1960s West Germany. Currently, I also oversee our MA Programme in Theatre and Performance.

Undergraduate Teaching

In the 2015-16 academic year, I teach on:

Postgraduate Teaching

In the 2015-16 academic year, I teach on:


Research Interests:

  • Activist Performance
  • German Theatre, Dance, and Film
  • Marxism and Performance
  • Postdramatic Theatre
  • Performance Historiography

Recent and On-Going Research

My academic research focuses on the use of performance in political movements, the relationship between performance and labour, and theatre historiography— mostly in Germany and the United States.

I am presently at work on a book titled The New Spirit of Performance: Antiauthoritarian Aesthetics and Resistance to Work in Postwar West Germany. It examines what changes in theatre, performance art, and film of the 1960s and 1970s can tell us about concomitant shifts in the character and organization of work. The book is also the first broad-spectrum history of this period in West German performance written in English. I focus on a range of artists with connections to anti-imperialist, feminist, and worker movements, including Pina Bausch, Harun Farocki, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Helke Sander, and Peter Weiss. The research for my book combines performance historiography with extensive archival work I completed originally for my doctoral dissertation, which was supported by a Fulbright grant and a fellowship from the Social Science Research Council.

Currently I am also in the midst of a research project examining business logistics and containerisation through the lens of performance. Since 2014 I have delivered several talks on this topic in the United States and England, and will be co-convening a conference “The Arts of Logistics” in 2016. My first article from this project, “Container Aesthetics,” is forthcoming in Theatre Journal.

My other research concentrates on the present using a variety of methods ranging from ethnography to live performance analysis. For example, my article in TDR: The Drama Review, which won the journal’s student essay prize, draws on oral history to study the conditions that led to the arrest and jailing of the renowned immigrant rights performance group, the VolxTheaterKarawane, during the 2001 G-8 Summit. In a series of essays on the prevalence of satirical performance in recent anti-capitalist movements, I turned to participant observation to research groups like the Yes Men and the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization. I have also published articles on gender and race in international performance, tackling topics such as feminist theatre in Ciudad Juárez and blackface performance in Germany.

A second book project, Postdramatic Materialism: Time, Labor, and Abstraction, combines my interests in Marxist political economy and international performance by theorizing how deindustrialization has fashioned many contemporary theater forms in nation-states belonging to the OECD. On the topic of postdramatic theatre, I have published reviews, interviews, and a forthcoming article. And for the past three years I have been the co-convener of the Postdramatic Theatre working group for the American Society for Theatre Research.

In addition to my research in performance, I have translated political theory and written on politics and popular culture for venues like The New InquiryCounterpunch, Viewpoint Magazine, Reclamations, Analyse und Kritik, The Scofield, and PMC-Magazine.


Books in Progress                                                                                                     

The New Spirit of Performance: Antiauthoritarian Aesthetics and Resistance to Work in Postwar West Germany

Articles and Selected Features

“Innovation, not Renovation: Brechtian Dialectics and the Innovative Norm,” Performance Research (forthcoming 2016).

“Container Aesthetics: The Infrastructural Politics of Shunt’s The Boy Climbed Out of his Face,” Theatre Journal (forthcoming 2016).

“Irresistible Images: A Conversation Between Larry Bogad and Shane Boyle,” Contemporary Theatre Review: Interventions, 2015.

“Hans-Jürgen Krahl: From Critical to Revolutionary Theory,” with Daniel Spaulding, Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014.

“Soldiers, Cops, Imperialists,” with Katy Fox-Hodess, Reclamations, 2014.

“Absent Futures: The Ironic Manifesto in an Age of Austerity,” in Manifesto Now! Instructions for Philosophy, Performance, Politics, Ed. Laura Cull and Will Daddario, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press and Intellect Books, 2013.

“High as Finance,” with Joshua Clover, The New Inquiry, 2013.

“Revolution, Then and Now: Gob Squad’s Sean Patten and Bastian Trost,” Theater 42:3, 2012.

“Thomas Ostermeier’s Othello,” Shakespeare 8:1, 2012.

“The University and its Lawful Business,” with Amanda Armstrong, Counterpunch, 2012.

“The Criminalization of Dissent: Protest Violence, Activist Performance, and the Curious Case of the VolxTheaterKarawane at the 2001 G-8 Summit,” TDR/The Drama Review 55:4, 2011.

“Privatize Now, Ask Questions Later!! UCMeP’s Unauthorized Performance of Administrative Authority,”South Atlantic Quarterly 110:2, 2011.

“Aura and the Archive: Confronting the Incendiary Fliers of Kommune 1,” in Performing Arts Resources: The Tyranny of Documents–The Performance Historian as Film Noir Detective, Ed. Stephen Johnson, New York: Theatre Library Association, 2011.

“Play with Authority! Radical Performance and Performative Irony,” in Theorizing Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas and Potentialities, Ed. Begüm Özden Firat and Aylin Kamil, Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2011.

“Border Practices: Art, Activism, and (mis)Representation in Juarez,” in The Contested Terrains of Globalization, Ed. J. Harris, New York: The Global Studies Association, 2008.

Book Reviews

Directing Scenes and Sense: The Thinking of Regie, by Peter Boenisch,” Contemporary Theatre Review (forthcoming). 

Performance, Politics, and Activism, Ed. Peter Lichtenfels and John Rouse,” Contemporary Theatre Review 24:4, 2014.

Passionate Amateurs: Theater, Communism, and Love, by Nicholas Ridout,” TDR: The Drama Review 58:4, 2014.

To Have or Have Not: Essays on Commerce and Capital in Modernist Theater, Ed. James Fisher,” Theatre Journal 65:4, 2013.

Theater is More Beautiful than War: German Stage Directing in the Late Twentieth Century, by Marvin Carlson,” Theatre Survey 53:1, 2012.

Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: The Story of a Friendship, by Erdmut Wizisla,” Theatre Journal 64:1. 2012.

Translations (German to English)

Alex Demirović, “Reading Capital,” Viewpoint Magazine (forthcoming).

Sabine Breitwieser, “Choreography,” in Curating People: Keywords in Experimental Performance, Ed. Shannon Jackson (forthcoming).

Sabine Breitwieser, “Collecting/Collection/Collector,” in Curating People: Keywords in Experimental Performance, Ed. Shannon Jackson (forthcoming).

Johannes Agnoli, “Theses on the Transformation of Democracy,” translated with Daniel Spaulding,Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014

Hans-Jürgen Krahl, “Historical Philosophy of the Authoritarian State,” translated with Daniel Spaulding,Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014.

PhD Supervision

I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.


My scholarly interests in theatre are closely informed by my various political commitments, many of which have found outlets in performance itself. In the past I have worked as part of activist performance groups like the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) and the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). In addition, I have experience as a director, dramaturge, and playwright.

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