Photo by Tristyn-Tiffany Caneso.

Editors' Note

The Legal Doctor is an episode from Cristiana Giordano and Greg Pierotti’s Unstories—a performance play that thinks the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe through the body, through kinesthetic and gestural images.

What kind of insights, sensations, affects, images, burgeon when performing the ethnographic? The Legal Doctor, and Unstories more broadly, attempt to answer such provocations through what the authors call “affect theatre,” a rediscovery of the empirical through the echoes and intensities of performative re-enactment, where there isn’t a 1:1 ratio between signifier and signified. Instead, omniscient explanations are deferred and surrogated by the open-endedness of the performatic and the many interpretations that follow (Taylor 2003). We may think then of The Legal Doctor as a performance that is meant to germinate multiple, associative lines of flight.

Anthropological insights seek alternative forms; they tap into kindred domains, and in doing so, expand the boundaries for what anthropology can be. In that transfer from ethnographic material to the performatic, Giordano and Pierotti appear to reckon with what becomes revealed through the body, spatial relations, the projection of certain utterances, the grain of the voice, the looks, postures, and gaits that comprise such experiments. Yet, performance isn’t the endpoint, but the locus of experimentation that leads to further ethnographic inquiry. It calls for further excavation. The scene we are presented with is no doubt one of incommensurability where younger bodies become legible only through their illegality and illegibility. Bodies are measured. Bones are under scrutiny since the didactic givens in times of crisis is that: the migrant body ought not to be trusted.

In Lisa Stevenson’s Unstories, we’re told that these experiments are in the pursuit of “moments.” How then is a moment forged, solidified? Is a moment something shared? If so, what scaffolds a moment for those involved? Is a moment none other than the “felt reality of a relation,” as Brian Massumi (2002, 16) prompts when trying to get a grip on what affect is? These questions are materialized and addressed in bodily performance. The Legal Doctor is a “worldmaking” practice (Kondo 2018) that blossoms without needing to define what this world is.


Kondo, Dorinne. 2018. World-Making: Race, Performance, and the Work of Creativity. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables of the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Taylor, Diana. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Posts in This Series

The Legal Doctor

The Legal Doctor

This is an excerpt from the play "Unstories," written by Cristiana Giordano and Greg Pierotti and directed by Greg Pierotti, University of California, Davis, Ma... More