E. Patrick Johnson
|Born||March 1, 1967|
Hickory, North Carolina
|Alma mater||University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Louisiana State University|
E. Patrick Johnson is the incoming dean of the Northwestern University School of Communication. He is the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and Professor of African-American Studies at Northwestern University. He currently serves as the Chair of the African-American Studies Department at Northwestern University and is a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Johnson is the Founding Director of the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern. His scholarly and artistic contributions focus on Performance Studies, African-American Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Born Elondust Patrick Johnson on March 1, 1967, the youngest of seven children in Hickory, North Carolina, Johnson was raised by his mother, Sarah M. Johnson, a factory worker. They grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Ridgeview, a majority-Black section of Hickory. He was mentored by black women in the Ridgeview Community, including Z. Ann Hoyle, who became the first black alderman of Hickory's city council. He attended Hickory High School, where he was Senior Class President, and later the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. At UNC-Chapel Hill, he majored in Speech Communications and received both his bachelor and master's degrees from there. He got his Ph.D. in Speech Communications at Louisiana State University.
Johnson became an Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College. In 2000, Johnson joined the faculty of the Department of Performance Studies Department at Northwestern University as Assistant Professor, then received tenure and a joint appointment in African-American Studies in 2003. From 2003–2006 and 2014–2016, Johnson served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Performance Studies. Later, he would also serve as the Chair of Performance Studies from 2006–2011. Johnson was promoted to Full Professor of African-American Studies and Performance Studies in 2007 before becoming the Carlos Montezuma Professor of African-American Studies and Performance Studies in 2011. He currently serves as the Chair of the African-American Studies Department.
Johnson's introduction of "quare" as a theoretical concept became particularly influential in the fields of queer theory, women, gender, and sexuality studies, and black studies. Originally published in Text & Performance Quarterly, "'Quare' Studies, Or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned From My Grandmother" went on to be reprinted numerous times. "Quare" signaled a significant departure from the lack of engagement with race and class by queer theorists and with gender and sexuality among black studies scholars.
Johnson's first book, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity, examines how blackness is appropriated and performed within and outside African American culture. It won the Lilla A. Heston Award and the Errol Hill Award.
His second book, Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History (2008) is an ethnographic oral history of the lives of black gay men in the US South, a traditionally uninterrogated region. This book got the Stonewall Book Award from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.
Published in 2005 with Mae G. Henderson, Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology interrogates the experiences of black queer people whose subjectivities, beliefs, struggles, triumphs and desires had not previously been interrogated by either Queer Theory or Black Studies. The anthology includes writings from scholars including Cathy Cohen, Kara Keeling, Roderick Ferguson, Rinaldo Walcott and Dwight McBride.
Published in 2014 with Ramon H. Rivera-Servera, solo/black/woman: scripts, interviews and essays is a collection of writings that feature seven solo performances by emerging and established feminist performance artists from the past three decades. The book received an Honorable Mention for the Errol Hill Book Award.
In 2013, Johnson published Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis, an edited collection of essays written by Dwight Conquergood. Conquergood selected Johnson to publish his work before his death in 2004. Conquergood was an ethnographer in the field of performance studies whose ethnographic methods focused on power, privilege, and researcher reflexivity/responsibility.
Published in 2016, No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies features the next generation of black queer theorists who follow in the lineage of writings in Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology. The text was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and features writings by Amber Jamilla Musser, Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley, Jafari Sinclaire Allen, Lyndon Gill and Marlon M. Bailey.
Published in 2016, Blacktino Queer Performance (with Ramon H. Rivera-Servera) is a collection of nine performance scripts by established and emerging black and Latina/o queer playwrights and performance artists. Each script is accompanied by an interview and critical essay by scholars across a range of interdisciplinary fields.
Black. Queer. Southern. Women—An Oral History is a forthcoming text examining the experiences of black women who love other women and live in the US South. In this text, Johnson employed similar methods (ethnographic oral history) as he did in Sweet Tea.
Inspired to present a more comprehensive version of Sweet Tea and the men that Johnson interviewed, in 2006 he created a solo Reader's Theater performance, called Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales, based on selected stories of the men that he interviewed. Pouring Tea toured across the country to over 100 universities, conferences and events over a decade. In 2010, in collaboration with Jane M. Saks, Columbia College and About Face Theatre Company in Chicago, Johnson developed the show into full production called Sweet Tea—The Play. After its Chicago debut, the show traveled to Austin, Texas to the Warfield Center (2010), Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia in 2011; Dixon Place in New York City (2012), the Durham Arts Council (2014), Rites and Reasons Theater in Providence, Rhode Island (2014), Towne Street Theater in Hollywood, California (2015), Northwestern University's Wirtz Center (2015), and to the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, NC (2015). Johnson won the Black Theater Alliance Bert Williams Award for Best Solo Performance for the show in 2010.
This text (2019) is the creative nonfiction companion to Black. Queer. Southern. Women—An Oral History and the story is loosely based on women who participated in Johnson's study.
Johnson has served on tenure and promotion evaluations, completed administrative service for Northwestern and served as an associate editor for publications including Text & Performance Quarterly, Sexualities, Cultural Studies and Gay & Lesbian Quarterly.
He is a member of several professional organizations including American Society for Theatre Research, American Studies Association, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Cultural Studies Association, Mid America Theater Association, Modern Language Association, National Communication Association.
Johnson has also served as convener for academic conferences including Black Queer Studies in the Millennium Conference, Black Feminist Performance, Creative Ethnography and Black Arts International: Temporalities and Territories.
In 1996 the Hickory City Council honored Johnson with his own day, citing his accomplishments as the first African American born and raised in Hickory to earn a Ph.D. In 2015, Johnson received the Oscar Brockett Award for Outstanding Teaching from the Association of Theatres in Higher Education. In 2010, Johnson was inducted into the Chicago Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Hall of Fame "for his leadership in the African-American LGBT community."