why performance studies?

Performance Studies is an interdisciplinary field merging humanities, social sciences and art. As a theoretical discipline it is situated between theatre and anthropology, folklore studies and sociology, history, semiotics and critical theory, gender studies and psychoanalysis,  popular culture and media theories, cultural studies, post-colonialism and post-structuralism, performance and performativity.Performance Studies works as an analytical lens for performance practices and their performativity. Its main subjects are theatre, dance, performance art, rituals, social dramas and all kinds of embodied practices.

Looking at cultural expression as practice and episteme, performance studies assume that experience can be understood as a way of knowing, which implies both methodological and political consequences:  methodological in that when we think fieldwork as performance we have to question the apparently simple task of “data collection” by an observer on an observed subject; political consequences arise from the non-neutrality inherent to situatedness as well as sustained attention to the (performative) way in which practices, discourses and ideas are reproduced, sustained, subverted, critiqued and naturalized.

As we will go into in detail here, this field of studies appeared in the United States in the Eighties. The first department of Performance Studies was founded in the mid-Eighties at Tisch School of The Arts of New York University in New York, as a result of a makeover in the Department of Drama. A few years later,  the School of Communication at Northwestern University in Chicago created the second department. Currently Performance Studies are in broad expansion and being reinvented in various latitudes and languages​​, all over the world.

Hard to translate directly to Portugueese, the term performance was introduced in Portuguese language and can now be used without italics, as explained here. Nevertheless it is necessary to distinguish Performance Studies, as explained above, from Performing Arts and Performance Art.

Performing Arts is the name given to all the art forms (such as dance or theatre) that use the body as medium and depend on the co-presence between audience and performer for its realization, while Performance Art refers to an artistic genre with specific characteristics that appeared in second half of the twentieth century.

A FORUM, 2007, “Is Performance Studies Imperialist? Part 3”, TDR: The Drama Review, v. 51, n. 4 (T196, Winter), p. 7-23.
CONQUERGOOD, Dwight, 2002, “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research”, TDR: The Drama Review, vol. 46, no. 2, (T174, Summer), p. 145-156.
HARDING, James and ROSENTHAL, Cindy, eds., 2011, The rise of performance studies : rethinking Richard Schechner’s broad spectrum. Studies in international performance . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
MCKENZIE, Jon, 2006, “Is Performance Studies Imperialist?”, TDR: The Drama Review, v. 50, n. 4 (T192, Winter), p. 5-8.
MCKENZIE, Jon, 2001, Perform or Else: from discipline to performance. London, UK: Routledge.
REINELT, Janelle, 2007, “Is Performance Studies Imperialist? Part 2”. TDR: The Drama Review, v. 51, n.3 (T195, Fall), p. 7-16.
SHANNON, JACKSON, 2001, “Professing Performances: disciplinary genealogies”, TDR: The Drama Review, v. 45, n. 1 (T169, Spring), p. 84-95.