Book launch for Art and Tradition in a Time of Uprisings (MIT Press)


with author Gabriel Levine (Glendon Drama Studies/York Theatre & Performance Studies)
and special guest artist/singer/songwriter Cheryl L’Hirondelle (halfbreed)
live visuals by shadow artist Annie Katsura Rollins

Thursday, May 21
3:00-4:15pm (online via Zoom)
All are welcome! To register, RSVP to


Art and Tradition in a Time of Uprisings

Supposedly outmoded modes of doing and making—from music and religious rituals to crafting and cooking—continue to flourish artistically and politically, now via the online platforms mandated by the current state of emergency. In Art and Tradition in a Time of Uprisings, Gabriel Levine examines collective projects that reclaim and reinvent tradition in contemporary North America, both within and beyond the frames of art.

In this book, Levine shows how experimenting with practices that have been abandoned or suppressed can offer powerful resources for creation and struggle in the present. As Levine argues, this takes place in markedly different ways for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in settler colonies. He describes the yearly Purim Extravaganza, which gathers queer, leftist, and Yiddishist New Yorkers in a profane adaptation of the springtime Jewish festival; the Ottawa-based Indigenous DJ collective A Tribe Called Red, who integrate powwow drumming and singing with electronic dance music; and the revival of home fermentation practices—considering it from microbiological, philosophical, aesthetic, and political angles. Projects that take back the vernacular in this way, Levine argues, not only develop innovative forms of art and practice; they can also work toward collectively reclaiming, remaking, and repairing a damaged world.

“This highly original book tracks a series of case studies in the return to tradition as an active mode of becoming. Life under settler-colonial occupation and neoliberal demand is here tempered by the capacities of ‘radical vernaculars’ to call out, critique and transform what are increasingly unlivable terms of the contemporary.”
—Jennifer Loureide Biddle, National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales, author of Remote Avant-Garde: Aboriginal Art Under Occupation

Art and Tradition in a Time of Uprisings is published by MIT Press.


Gabriel Levine is a writer, performance-maker, teacher, and musician. He co-edited Practice, in the Whitechapel/MIT Press series Documents of Contemporary Art, and has written for publications including the Journal of Curatorial Studies, Performance Research, PUBLIC: Art/Culture/Ideas, TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies and Canadian Theatre Review. He has released numerous recordings on Constellation Records and other labels, and his puppet and object-theatre projects have toured to festivals in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He is currently Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Drama Studies at Glendon College, York University, and co-curator of the Concrete Cabaret performance series.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree/MĂ©tis; German/Polish) is an award winning and community-engaged interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter and critical thinker whose family is from Papaschase First Nation / amiskwaciy wĂąskahikan (Edmonton, AB) and Kikino Metis Settlement. Her work investigates and articulates the intersections of nĂȘhiyawin (Cree worldview) and contemporary time-place incorporating sound, Indigenous languages, music, and old and new technology. Her current projects include: Why the Caged Bird Sings, a collaborative songwriting project with incarcerated women, men and detained youth; nĂźpawiwin ohci, a series of immersive installations created to evoke embodied concepts towards solidarity; and Singing Land – a multi-iterative international songwriting/sonic mapping project where she ‘sings land’ as a process of personal treaty-making. She is currently a PhD candidate at SMARTlab/UCD in Dublin, Ireland.

Annie Katsura Rollins is a researcher, theatre and puppetry artist, and practitioner of Chinese shadow puppetry, who recently completed a PhD at Concordia University on the precarity of safeguarding traditional puppet forms. She has exhibited, lectured, and performed at venues including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Montreal Botanical Gardens, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, the Linden Center in Yunnan China, and the Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands. Annie has published articles in Puppetry International, Asian Theatre Journal, Manip, and Anthropology Now and created the first comprehensive Chinese shadow puppetry site in English at

This event is presented by Glendon Campus of York University, and sponsored by the Centre for Research in Language and Culture Contact, the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, the Glendon Indigenous Affairs Council, the Race Equity Caucus of Glendon, the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, and the Graduate Program in Theatre & Performance Studies.

For more information and to register, contact Prisca Ng at

Top: Poster by Annie Katsura Rollins, from cover design by MIT Press
Middle: Freedom Tours (2017), procession through Rouge Park, Toronto, by Cheryl L’Hirondelle and Camille Turner, photo by Jalani Morgan
Bottom: Scene from the Aftselakhis Spectacle Committee’s Purimshpil Parthenogenesis: The Next Generation (2014), New York City, photo by Erik McGregor