Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation argues for performance art’s role(s) in growing abolition on higher education campuses. After defining abolition’s intersections with higher education, and discussing why performance is often diminished and overlooked, I examine a university abolitionist performance I co-directed that highlighted prison labor on our university’s campus titled ‘In Knowledge We Trusted: Red Tape, White Institutions, and Blue Students.’ A rationale for abolition performance and an abolition performance praxis is detailed with attention to avoiding the pitfalls of authenticity policing in prison abolition and genre policing in abolitionist art. Conclusions about how the performance contributed to and embodied abolition politics and theories include the ongoing and historical significance of sacrilege, satire, and carnival to abolitionist goals, and drawing attention to Black liberation movements and world-building. Additionally, the performance processes, specifically theater games and popular education style devising, acted as a form of care labor that empowered and emboldened an ensemble of exploited undergraduate and graduate student workers. By centering the most marginalized and ignored workers in academic knowledge and labor hierarchies, performance can make spaces for audiences to re-think the institutions we inhabit through a materialist and abolitionist lens that imagines a world free from prisons and police— all forms of policing, including academic forms.



Committee Chair

Shaffer, Tracy



Available for download on Wednesday, April 01, 2026