Katherine Zien

 Katherine Zien
Contact Information
514-398-4400 Ext. 09343
Email address: 
katherine.zien [at] mcgill.ca

Arts 355
Arts Building
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC H3A 0G5

Faculty Members
Associate Professor
Drama and Theatre
Cultural Studies
Specialization by geographical area: 
United States
Caribbean & Latin America
Specialization by time period: 
Archives & Bibliography
Embodied Practice & Ethnographic Approaches
Identity & Representation
Post/Anti/Decolonial Studies
Areas of interest: 

theatre and performance in the Americas, African diaspora studies, Latin American studies, postcolonial theory, cultural studies, studies of gender and sexuality, nineteenth- and twentieth-century theatre and drama.


I am a scholar of theatre and performance studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. My work spans the Western Hemisphere in considering intersections of politics, historiography, and performance in the making and unmaking of social and political movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I have authored and edited recent and forthcoming books on sovereignty and performance in Panama and the Canal Zonethe cultural Cold War and the Global South; and performance, gender and sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean. I am currently completing a monograph tentatively titled “Theater of War: Performance, Military Training, and Counterinsurgency in Panama, 1960-1990.” This book examines performance repertoires of military training – theorizing instances of rehearsal, simulation, scripting, and improvisation – in the history of inter-American military alliances that took place in the former Canal Zone. For this project I am also creating an interactive, multimedia website that will accompany the book and provide maps of former US military bases in Panama created with ArcGIS software. This research is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).  

In the Department of English and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) program at McGill University, I teach courses on theatre history and studies, performance studies, dramatic literature, and Latin American and Caribbean studies. My courses engage popular entertainments, socially situated performance practices, and questions of race, gender, and socioeconomic class. My graduate courses have examined theories and practices of improvisation; performance and/as history; and theatre and diaspora.

I am committed to an intersectional approach in my teaching, research, supervision, and service, because I know that different ideas, events, and challenges land differently for different people, and our perspectives are shaped by who, when, and where we are. I am also committed to a pedagogical practice of trying things out and rehearsing ideas in supportive and collaborative community. Finally, I am committed to working for equity, which I define as centering members of marginalized groups and dismantling forms of institutional oppression. 


Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
B.A., magna cum laude (Columbia University)

Curriculum vitae: 
Selected publications: 

Edited Volumes

(Forthcoming) Bodies on the Line: Performance, Gender, and Sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean. Co-edited with Brenda Werth (University of Michigan Press, Fall 2023)

The Cultural Cold War in the Global South: Sites of Contest and Communitased. Zien, Monica Popescu and Kerry Bystrom (Routledge, 2021)

Co-Editor (with Colleen Kim Daniher) of Special Journal Issue: “Race and Performance in the US-Canada Borderlands,” Theatre Research in Canada: 40.2. (June 2020).

Articles and Book Chapters

Book Chapters

(Forthcoming) “Visualizing the Military Hemisphere: Technology, Data, and Display in Latin America’s Cold War.” In Latin American Visual Histories: Paradigms, Methods, Aporias. Co-edited by Jessica Stites Mor and Ernesto Capello. (University of Texas Press, 2025)

“Between Empire and Dictatorship: The Decolonial Dreams of Raúl Leis,” in Theatre After Empire, Ed. Harvey Young and Megan Geigner (Routledge, 2021).

“Parabolic Moves: Time, Narrative, and Difference in New Circus.” Race and Performance after Repetition, ed. Soyica Colbert, Douglas A. Jones, and Shane Vogel (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020).

“Theatre and Drama in the Hot Zones of the Cold War: Selected Case Studies.” In The Palgrave Handbook to Cold War Literature, ed. Andrew Hammond. Palgrave, 2020.

“Sidelong Glances: Black Divas in Transit, 1945-1960.” Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance, ed. Kathy A. Perkins, Sandra L. Richards, Renée Alexander Craft, and Thomas F. DeFrantz (NY: Routledge, 2018).

Mises-en-scène of Militarization: Decommissioning US Military Infrastructure in the Panama Canal Zone.” Performance in a Militarized Culture, ed. Sara Brady and Lindsey Mantoan (NY: Routledge, 2018).

“Minstrels of Empire: Blackface and Black Labor in Panama, 1850-1914.” Theatre and Cartographies of Power: (Re)Positioning the Latina/o Americas, ed. Analola Santana and Jimmy Noriega (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2018).

Articles in Refereed Journals

“A Mobile Social Realm: Labour, Sovereignty, and Subjecthood in Disabled Theater,” Theatre Research in Canada 37, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 164-200.

“Troubling Multiculturalisms: Staging Trans/National Identities in Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes’s El gallo.” Theatre Survey 55, no. 3 (September 2014): 343-361.

“Sounding Sovereignty: Performance and Politics in the 1999 Panama Canal Handover.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21, no. 4 (August 2014): 337-353.

“Race and Politics in Concert: Paul Robeson and William Warfield in Panama, 1947-1953,” Global South 6, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 107-129.

“The Michael Jackson Memorial Procession: Carving a Sonic Path through Stratified Spaces,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 23, no. 1 (March 2011): 85-93.

“Toward a Pedagogy of Redress: Staging West Indian Panamanian History in De/From Barbados a/to Panamá.” Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 4, no. 3 (November 2009): 293-317.

Reviews and Public Scholarship

Reviewed in:

Book Reviews

Sustainable Tools for Precarious Times: Performance Actions in the Americas. Ed. Natalie Alvarez, Claudette Lauzon, Karen Zaiontz. Palgrave 2019. In Theatre Research in Canada, 41.2 (Fall 2020): 320-323.

Jessica Stites Mor and María del Cármen Suescun Pozas, Eds. The Art of Solidarity: Visual and Performative Politics in Cold War Latin America. H Net, Spring 2019.

Patricia Ybarra, Latinx Theatre in the Times of Neoliberalism. In TDR 63.1 (T241): Spring 2019. 159-161.

Josefina Alcazar, Performance: un arte del yo. In Latin American Theatre Review 51.1 (Fall 2017).

Stuart Day, Outside Theatre: Alliances that Shape Mexico. In La revista canadiense de Estudios hispánicos 41.2 (2017).

Laura Levin and Marlis Schweitzer, eds. Performance Studies in Canada. Studies in Theatre and Performance (published online October 4, 2017).

Michelle Ann Stephens, Skin Acts: Race Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer and Faedra Chatard Carpenter, Coloring Whiteness: Acts of Critique in Black Performance. In Theatre Research International 42, no. 1 (March 2017): 97-99.

Natalie Alvarez, ed. Fronteras Vivientes and Latina/o Canadian Theatre and Performance. In ‘ Theatre Research in Canada 35, no. 3 (Fall 2014): 411-414.

Diana Taylor and Marcela Fuentes, eds. Estudios avanzados de performance. In Alt.theatre 10, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 37-39.

Soyica Diggs Colbert, The African American Theatrical Body: Reception, Performance, and the Stage, and Stephanie Leigh Batiste, Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representations in Depression-Era African American Performance. In E-misférica 9, no. 1 (May 2012).

Performance Reviews

The Tashme Project: The Living Archive. alt.theatre, 15.2, June 2019. 33-34.

Albany Park Theatre Project’s Learning Curve. Theatre Journal 69, no. 3 (September 2017): 423-425.

“On the Bleeding Edge of the Real: Women of Ciudad Juárez.” Women & Performance 25, no. 3 (Spring 2016): 370-376.

“Too Many Conference Papers Make the Baby Go Blind: When is Neo-Futurism?” Performance Research 19, no. 3 (15 August 2014): 154.

“Foto de señoritas y esclusas.” E-misférica 7, no. 1 (July 2010).

Other Non-Refereed Publications and Public-Facing Scholarship

Special Guest Post, AULA Blog, Latin America: Lessons Learned from Abortion Rights Struggle,” co-authored with Brenda Werth. (9 June 2022).

Encyclopedia entry: “George Westerman.” Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Franklin K. Knight (NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 2000 words.

Interview: “Panamanian Theatre for Social Change: Notes from an Interview with Playwright Raúl Leis.” Latin American Theatre Review 47, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 5-11.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 


  • 2018: Book Prize, Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, for Sovereign Acts: Performing Race, Space, and Belonging in Panama and the Canal Zone. Description: Awarded to the best book of the year.
  • 2018: Gordon K. and Sybil Farrell Lewis Book Prize, Caribbean Studies Association, for Sovereign Acts: Performing Race, Space, and Belonging in Panama and the Canal Zone. Description: Awarded to the best book of the year.
  • 2018: Honorable Mention, Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History, American Society for Theatre Research, for Sovereign Acts: Performing Race, Space, and Belonging in Panama and the Canal Zone. Description: Awarded to the best book of the year; Sovereign Acts was awarded second place.

Grants over $10,000.00:

  • 2018-2025: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant: “Theatre of War: Simulated Combat as Performance during Latin America’s Cold War” ($190,549.00 CAD) (Principal Investigator)
  • 2017-18: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant: “Bodies in Difference: Race and Performance in and beyond North America” ($24,996.00 CAD) (Principal Investigator with co-applicants Fiona Ritchie and Myrna Wyatt Selkirk)
  • 2013-17: Fonds de recherche du Québec sur la société et la culture (FRQSC) – Nouveaux professeurs-chercheurs Research Grant : « La propagande en mouvement : la diplomatie des spectacles et de la culture dans les Ameriques, 1933-1960. » ($46,728.00 CAD) (Principal Investigator)
Graduate supervision: 

I have supervised a wide range of undergraduate and graduate projects in literature, drama, and cultural studies on topics whose geographic sites include Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Canada, and the USA. In other words, I have supervised extensively in non-western and post-Conquest hemispheric research areas as well as Indigenous studies areas.

Taught previously at: 

Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

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