Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Gingrich-Philbrook, Craig


This dissertation offers an account of conspicuous performance as reproductive justice activism. Reproductive justice scholarship and activism disrupt dominant discursive frameworks of reproductive health and rights to emphasize the intersectionality and interdependence of oppressive systems that limit reproductive freedom. Reproductive justice scholar-activists turn to aesthetic communication practices, such as storytelling, as a strategy for challenging reproductive oppression. As a practice of public and scholarly aesthetic communication, performance studies provides a unique methodological approach for practicing reproductive justice. To demonstrate this argument, I trace a history of performance scholar-activists engaging reproductive politics through conspicuous performance. While this history stretches across the performance studies discipline, I locate the Marion Kleinau Theatre at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as a case study to examine the breadth and depth of reproductive justice performance in a particular performance space. Using Sara Ahmed’s queer phenomenological archival methods, I assemble an archive of reproductive politics in Kleinau Theatre performances organized around the three primary principles of reproductive justice: the right to have children, the right to not have children, and the right to safe and sustainable communities. By attending to the reproductive politics in performance acts, I highlight the reproductive politics of performance acts—or how performance is discursively framed through the language of reproduction. Ultimately, I advocate for queering performance archives to disrupt this repro-normativity, approaching them instead through reproductive justice concepts of access, pleasure, and memorial.




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