Dixon Li is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania with graduate certificates in Cinema and Media Studies as well as Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. They are trained as a cultural critic, poet, dancer, performance maker, and somatics teacher. They graduated from Princeton University in 2014 with a BA in English (summa cum laude, phi beta kappa) and minors in African-American Studies & American Studies. From 2014-2016 they were a Marshall Scholar in London where they completed MA's in Writing in the Modern age at Queen Mary (2015) and an MA in Performance Making at Goldsmiths (2016).
Their scholarly work draws on Critical Black and Race Studies as well as Feminist, Queer, and Trans* theories to engage dance and performance studies, cinema and media studies, and literature. They have particular interests in ethnographic and archival research methods as well as multi-ethnic historiographies and specialize in African and Asian diasporic arts and cultures.
Their dissertation, “Captivating Flesh, Stranded Affects: Race, Dance, and Bodily Being” is an intermedial and multidisciplinary project that looks at imbricated histories of race, politics, dance, and theories of embodiment in the 20th and 21st centuries in a North American context. The core conceptual question of this dissertation is how psychic and material circumstances of racial alienation, radical dispossession, and inarticulable grief, realities that produce what this project calls stranded affect, become the basis through which forms of transformational politics, reparative embodiment, and radical relational philosophies of the self emerge. Through an engagement with the archive of dance and its mediations and intermedial encounters with literary and audiovisual cultures in the 20th and 21st centuries, this dissertation traces how racially nonwhite artists have imagined and enacted social change through the embodied experiences of dancing and watching dance.
They have ongoing artistic collaborations with Be Heintzman Hope, Ogemdi Ude, Casey Brown, and Assaf Aharonson that explore, variously: tarot as a form of filiation; queer sisterhood; telepathic bases of dance; and the history of erotic dance. They are in the early stages of developing a long-term serial performance/film project centered on Anna May Wong's lost television show "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong" (1951). Together with fellow UPenn Graduate students Ann Ho and JS Wu they run the "Ways of Seeing Race" collective that brings scholars, activists, and artists together for cross-disciplinary study collaborations that produce public-facing anti-racist visual literacies.
Most recently they have performed in and/or created performances for: The Transgressive Body (ponder0sa, Germany 2019), Time Passes (Sharon Hayes & Brooke O'Hara, Philadelphia, 2019), Secret Journey: Rove (Pat Catterson & Yoshiko Chuma, New York, 2019), Delshakes: Much ado about nothing (Bi Jean Ngo, Delaware, 2018), OpenFlr (Elisa Zuppini, Florence, 2016), The Master's Festival Goldsmiths University (London, 2016), Festival Danse Directe Butoh (Normandy, 2015), and 'Essercitazione Ritmiche' in the Venice Biennale (Claudia Castellucci, Venice, 2015).
They are adjunct faculty in UArts' Dance MFA and have curated dance and performance through UArts' School of Temporary Liveness and are a curatorial associate of the Clouds Gathering Performance Festival in New Lebanon, New York. From 2019-2020 they co-coordinated Penn English's Gen/Sex working group with Kirsten Lee and Jacob Meyers.