Patrick McKelvey

Patrick McKelveyPatrick McKelvey

Patrick McKelvey is a PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University where he is concurrently pursuing an MA in Anthropology. He is currently at work on a dissertation entitled "DisAffecting: Disability Performance and Theatrical Labor in the United States." 

"DisAffecting" offers the first history of disability and theatrical labor and the first sustained engagement with queer disabled playwright, activist, and minister Ron Whyte. In the 1970s, theatre workers, activists, and state agencies struggled to answer key questions: should Americans with disabilities enter the labor market as artists? How? On what terms and to what ends? 

DisAffecting unearths the cultural, institutional, and theatrical histories of these debates through case studies that draw upon archives of theatre, social policy, and disability activism between the 1970s and the historical present. Emphasizing the theoretical insights of performance studies, this dissertation demonstrates how multiple valences of performance became central in neoliberal efforts to wean people with disabilities off of public assistance. Indeed, through performance, “the disabled” transformed into “differently-abled” artist-entrepreneurs. But this dissertation refutes the idea that people with disabilities have been fully absorbed by market instrumentality. Against a backdrop of state withdrawal, artists with disabilities led activists and policymakers in forging innovative, even surprising, relationships to infrastructures of support. In so doing, their theatrical labor did not merely collude with the rule of the market, but proved central in developing an ethos of interdependence and in imagining a future beyond work. 

In the 2012-2013 academic year, he co-convened (with Micah Salkind) a year-long Mellon Graduate Workshop entitled "There's No Outside: Queer Space Under Late Capitalism." Patrick has published reviews in Theatre Journal and Modern Drama, and has an essay forthcoming in a queer dance studies anthology edited by Clare Croft (Oxford University Press).