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Empathy, Identification, and Life Narrative: The Political Potentials of Performance

Hannah Barrie

Drawing on Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon’s 2014 book and live show, Gender Failure, and Vivek Shraya’s 2016 book and performance, even this page is white, I argue that the performance of autobiographical storytelling enables a space of empathetic identification. Empathy as an agent of change is limited in its transformative potential, but performances of life narrative can ultimately lead to community-building, personal growth, and political change if situated ethically and relationally. These works by queer, trans, and gender non-conforming artists embody intimacy and vulnerability to create a performance space that fulfills José Esteban Muñoz’s concept of a liberatory potentiality. 

Keywords: Storytelling, Life Narrative, Performance, GenderIdentification

Hannah Barrie is a recent graduate of the MA program in Gender Studies and Feminist Research at McMaster University. Her research explores feminist transformative justice models with a focus on sexualized violence, arguing for sustainable community-based approaches to harm that work from a feminist/queer/anti-racist framework. Hannah is currently a case manager at a women’s shelter in Hamilton, Ontario.