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Books & Articles


Art of Darkness:

Ingenious Performances by Undercover Operators, Con Men, and Others




Cuneiform Books

Straddling the broad range of identity performers—undercover operatives, fugitives, disguise artists, pranksters, con artists, and federally protected witnesses—Art of Darkness unpacks the artfulness of both criminality and identity-based detection.

Its cases include self-defined artists whose work has a criminal dimension as well; law-enforcement workers who adopt the techniques of criminals in order to catch them but somehow get caught up in their own trick identities; criminal informants who masterfully play sides and roles against each other; and hoaxsters and impersonators who may perform trick identities primarily for gain but do so with tremendous inventiveness and a certain directorial consciousness.

See Sara’s 10 Keys to Surviving Undercover.





"An intriguing piece of nonfiction all the way through ... highly recommended."

— James Cox, The Midwest Book Review


"If you ever wanted to know what it is really like to be an undercover operative working in diverse settings then this book is for you. This is a fascinating and compelling book that describes the variety of ploys, stratagems, techniques, and methods used by undercover agents. There is no aspect of being an undercover agent that the author does not discuss in a sophisticated yet absorbing manner. ... Since being an under­cover agent is a kind of extreme form of covert participant observation, the book would be useful for graduate courses in methodology that emphasize participant observation"

— Michael Klausner, Teaching Sociology



"Sara K. Schneider has produced a fascinating, keenly intelligent, and thoroughly engaging book about ‘street acting by undercover operators, con men and others’. Aptly titled ART OF DARKNESS, Schneider's book explores the gamut of identity alteration, whether that alteration is for the support of the law by undercover investigators or by con artists, and in doing so she encourages the reader to become aware of identity theft and crime recognition as well as writing what must be the best documented resource for actors, for students of character behavior, for those who are seeking the secrets of the con games, and for law enforcement officers on the shelves today. ... A book the average reader will find intoxicating in its information and in the succinct manner in which Sara K. Schneider writes."

— Grady Harp, Amazon Top Reviewer #7



Contact Sara to inquire about trainings for law enforcement.


Vital Mummies:

Performance Design for the Show-Window Mannequin



Yale University Press

Mannequins have been the ubiquitous subject of popular novels, journalism, and sci-fi television and films, in large measure because they illuminate our culture’s fascination with the increasingly porous boundary between the real and the imitation, the authentic and the inauthentic, and the body and the self. They also light up the seductiveness of images that encapsulate both sex and death.

Vital Mummies draws heavily on interviews with New York display directors, many of whom worked during display’s “golden” era in the mid-1970s, known as “street-theatre,” in which mannequins were presented in discernibly theatrical—even melodramatic—scenes that highlighted relationships, conflicts, and actions and their consequences. Many of these scenes dealt with explicitly violent or sexual themes, and the subjects of insanity and bodily transformation—through drug use, suicide, pregnancy, and murder—took center stage. In many ways, the book serves as an oral history of an otherwise unreclaimable time, as a disproportionate number of the stars of display, gay men in their 20s and 30s, have since died of AIDS-related causes.

The book probes the relation between the design of the mannequin’s body and the eventual silent and motionless “play” into which it is cast and staged, as well as the kinds of directorial decisions for which such designers as mannequin sculptors and window display artists ultimately become responsible. It proposes the theatricality and the ephemerality of the realm of the visual and, in so doing, makes vital connections between material culture and museum and performance studies.





"Mannequins are so much a part of our culture that sometimes we might accept them as near-human or as just cardboard silhouettes and not think about the ramifications of what they are really doing in the store-windows."




"Schneider has thought about what they are doing, and what they are doing is important and complex. She examines the various elements of culture they represent: theater, art, salesmanship, and she reads the audience — you and me as we stand and gawk at the figures before us. She concentrates on the 70s because that was the period when window designers perceived themselves as directors, their mannequins as actors and the people on the streets as audience. This was the time, in other words, when mannequin display became street theater, with groups of the characters enacting real life scenes. ... The extended world that Schneider so competently examines is of great importance and interest to us. So is her book."

— Michael Schoenecke, Texas TechUniversity 



"Beautifully written"

     Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist:  A New Theory of the Leisure Class and Empty Meeting Grounds

"Happily avoids the kind of impermeable gobbledygook that envelops so much that is written about contemporary culture. ... a unique intellectual contribution"

Stuart Ewen, author of All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture


Concert Song as Seen:

Kinesthetic Aspects of Musical Interpretation


Pendragon Press

Concert Song as Seen explores the “minimal” physical performance of a singer cemented into the crook of a piano, performing an art song recital in which she may successively take on as many as 20 characters in the course of an hour, without benefit of scene partners, movement over the stage, costume or make-up, or even director.

It turns the concept of “performance practice” on its ear, adding to the existing literature on the musical interpretation of the art song repertoire an examination of what actually happens on a visually perceived, bodily level in the singer’s performance.





            — New York Native




"Will surely benefit the professional singer, the teacher, and the student of voice."

— Lotte Lehmann Foundation




           — Choice


Recently in Print



Kinesthetic teaching and learning


This engaging article offers two original typologies:
A spectrum of types of kinesthetic learning, ranging from those most strongly associated with habit formation to those engaged in the most abstract learning;
An array contrasting how able and how willing teachers are to demonstrate or practice alongside their students. After all, some teachers can and do; some can’t and do; some can and don’t; some can’t and don’t. Find out the learning effects of each of these choices in Schneider’s article.

“Wise Teaching to Students’ Kinesthetic Intelligence: The Teacher as Surrogate, Guru, Foreshadower, Choreographer, or Expeditionist.”

            — Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning. 16. Winter 2011.


Martial arts in India


Rooted in the author's fieldwork studying the traditional South Indian martial art kalarippayattu, these articles examine the complexities of communication, including the use of touch as a teaching tool, in an intercultural teacher-student relationship, and surfaces how gender, culture, and class impacted learning in this embodied art.

“The Teacher’s Blessing and the Withheld Hand: Two Vignettes of Somatic Learning in South India’s Indigenous Martial Art Kalarippayattu.”

— In Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports. Raúl Sánchez García and Dale C. Spencer, Eds. Anthem Press.

~ and in ~

“Learning India's Martial Art of Kalarippayattu:

Unsettled Ecologies of Gender, Class, Culture, and Ethnicity.” Journal of Asian Martial Arts. (2010). 19(3): 46.




 “Fighting Scholars is a groundbreaking contribution, combining empirically illuminating explorations of combats sports with methodologically innovative insights into embodiment and social research. With an acute sensitivity towards the social role of violence, gender relations and the cross-cultural transmission of leisure forms, this book underscores the transformative potential of both sports participation and the ethnographic experience.”

Dominic Malcolm, Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport, Loughborough University







JAEPL issue 2010





Fighting Scholars
Buy On Amazon





14 copy


Current Projects



Healthcare and Professional Development


“Cultivating cultural sensitivity in healthcare providers “Crises of Empathy: Practicing Having the Body of an ‘Other’” describes practices Schneider has used to cultivate cultural sensitivity in healthcare providers. Forthcoming in anthology on teaching reflective practice to healthcare providers, Keeping Reflection Fresh: A Practical Guide for Clinical Educators.”

            — Kent State University Press. Dr. Allan Peterkin and Pamela Brett-Macleans, eds.



Prison Yoga


With no previous training and no virtually no living contact with professional yoga teachers, a collective of men at a midwestern prison started and stewarded a yoga program serving 150 inmates per week, inventing a form of physical yoga, a style of masculinity, and a set of program management practices specific to being incarcerated yogis. Based on a novel form of participant-observation also specific to this prison research — as Schneider did ethnographic research with men at this relatively remote prison while teaching yoga to women inmates in the federal prison in Chicago’s Loop — this research offers a new model for a masculinity found in collective identity and caregiving.





Serbian folk dance in Romania


A meditation on the contrasting body-based fieldwork methodologies of an international group of somatic anthropologists, folklorists, and ethnochoreologists who traveled to Romania to collectively study the migration of dance forms among those living in the Serbian diaspora. Forthcoming in anthology on the study of dance in Eastern Europe.

— Selena Rakocevic and Liz Mellish, eds.