Performative Encounters: Memory Violence in Sleep Deprivation Chamber




Adrienne Kennedy, Memory Violence, Black Lives Matter, Reparative Drama


In their biographical play Sleep Deprivation Chamber (1996), Adrienne Kennedy and her son Adam P. Kennedy retrace family memories to describe the aftermath of police brutality in 1990s America. They narrate the brutal beating of a middle-class, young Black man named Teddy and the events taking place later at trial. The playwrights make use of “memory violence” (Olick 2018) to elicit the spectators’ emotional response and construct a performative encounter in which the figures of perpetrator, survivor and bystander are questioned and redefined. Through this violence of remembering, they manage to insert unrecorded moments of abuse in our collective imaginary, moving from staged nightmares, distant courtrooms and individual sleep deprivation chambers into a figurative shared space where Black lives do matter.


This work has also been supported by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation through the research project “A Critical History of Ethnic American Literature VI” Ref. No. PID2019-108754GB-I00.


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Statistics RUA



How to Cite

Barba Guerrero, Paula. 2021. “Performative Encounters: Memory Violence in Sleep Deprivation Chamber”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 35 (July):101-17.