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Theater and Performance

Performance As Object

As an "interdiscipline," performance studies prides itself on its open, multivocal, and fluid character, refusing to dictate either a core methodology or canonical body of knowledge and resisting a fixed or exclusive definition of performance itself. That said, scholarship that goes under the banner of performance studies has in common a focus on process, action, events, and behaviors, be they physical, verbal, artistic, or technological, and claims performance—the execution or carrying out of things—as both its object and its method of study. This focus entails abandoning static, object-oriented, or textual approaches to cultural analysis, inclining instead toward processual, interactional, and experiential perspectives. An art historian or archaeologist working in performance studies, for example, might examine how a given object has functioned or been understood over time and in particular material and social contexts; a performance historian might concentrate on situating a historical document in the contexts and moments of its enunciation; an idea or political principle would not be approached in the abstract but through an analysis of its embodied enactment in ceremony, debate, or communal events. In the words of one of its more famous exponents, Dwight Conquergood, performance studies means understanding "culture" as a verb rather than a noun.

Among the basic premises shared by scholars in performance studies is the conviction that performance is one of the most powerful means that humans have for constructing reality, forging and sustaining collectivities, social relationships, and individual identities, and for questioning or imagining them otherwise. Performance is also a means for accomplishing agendas and forwarding arguments, for learning and persuading through the agency of narrative, semiotic communication, corporeal style and training, pleasure, and participation. While performance studies retains close ties to the study of Western theatrical practice, it regards illusionistic, representational theater as but one category in a broad spectrum of performance Outdoor performance of Euripedes' Iphigenia in Taurus, Bradfield College, Berkshire, England, 1912. The field of performance studies has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, when experimental and avant-garde theater met structuralist anthropology. Performance was seen as a means to build new realities and stimulate the mind. © HULTON-DEUTSCH COLLECTION/CORBIS practices, the majority of which are more concerned with poesis than mimesis, with making (of realities and meanings) rather than faking. Performance studies resists drawing hard and fast lines between aesthetic modes of performance and deliberative or habitual forms of action, arguing instead that analytical models used for either can be productively applied to both. However, the bulk of performance studies scholarship is still drawn to those actions along what Richard Schechner has called the "performance continuum" between everyday enactments and the performing arts, actions that are framed or designated in specific social contexts as performance.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Thallophyta to ToxicologyTheater and Performance - Performance Studies' Interdisciplinary Genealogy, Performance As Object, Performance As Method, Performance, Performativity, And Theatricality