Maya Stovall, "Liquor Store Theatre" (Duke UP, 2020)

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For six years, anthropologist and artist Maya Stovall enacted a series of dance performances outside of liquor stores in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on Detroit’s east side. Stovall conceptualized these performances as prompts for people that may pass by and as a means to open up space for conversation with Detroit residents.

These filmed performances and the interviews that followed make up Liquor Store Theatre (Duke University Press, 2020). In the book, Stovall probes the historic, economic, and political forces that constructed and shape the city of Detroit. Liquor Store Theatre attends closely to the methods of performance and interviews as they unfold in the author’s pursuit of this project. Stovall’s interlocuters share their perspectives on the changes in the city, the challenges the city faces, as well as their hopes for a future in which they can enjoy the benefits of the city. A native Detroiter herself, Stovall’s artistic ventures turn the lens back on the city itself and center the voices of Detroiters, whose awareness of the city’s challenges mixes with their pursuit of opportunity. Liquor Store Theatre videos have been screened at the 2017 Whitney Biennial and at the Cranbrook Art Museum. Stovall brings together ethnography, contemporary art and performance, and geography to offer an innovative method for troubling the relationship between the observed and the observer of city life.

Maya Stovall is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Liberal Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Stovall’s exhibition for 1526 appears at the Reyes Finn gallery. Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California.

Reighan Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Her research examines the ways in which Afro-Brazilian media producers foment anti-racist visual politics through their image creations.

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