By Raiye Adele and Christine Capetola
This week we explored foundational concepts of performance and performance studies as discussed by the following texts: Marvin Carlson's Performance: A Critical Introduction, Michel de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life, Roland Barthes's Mythologies, and Dwight Conquergood's "Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research." We also revisited Diana Taylor's conceptualizations of the archive, repertoire, and scenario from last week and, via de Certeau, engaged with both Michel Foucault's notion of discourse and Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus.
We began with some short introductions for Diana Taylor and Marvin Carlson before jumping into discussion and debate.
We did a poster dialogue (pictured above) to generate different ideas about bodies, space, and time based on this week's texest. We also went on a short walk outside to put de Certeau's tactic of walking into practice. Additionally, we discussed how de Certeau's walker partakes in the disruptive practice of writing stories. We classified this inscription of words onto bodies as discursive—and therefore also performative (versus performatic ((although we also considered how walking dovetails with Taylor's notion of embodied practice)). While outside for our walk, many students fell into walking behind and at a similar rhythm to those in front of us. In this sense, we recreated a sense of stable time and space—and of time and space as separate from bodies. At the same time, some students veered off into the grass or even stopped walking, reinforcing de Cereau's assertion that tactics in general and walking in particular can work as disruptive practices. Back in the classroom, we speculated on whom would not be so welcome to partake in our walking experiment (such as a homeless person), leading us to grapple with the assumed whiteness of de Certeau's walker.
In our walking exercise, some students thought about issues of legibility. We thought about how the reading of our bodies as students and faculty in the space made us seen as belonging to that space. Some students talked about their experiences walking as women of color, bringing up ideas of accessibility and invisibility in relation and how societal ideas about their presence affected the way in which they moved through space. The idea of internalized surveillance also surfaced in conversation and how societal norms and expectations get translated and policed by the self and others.
In the classroom discussion, Dwight Conquergood’s ideas about the subaltern’s inaccessibility to text and the bureaucracy of literacy helped us work through some of the ideas put forth. The example of the oppression of undocumented people in the U.S. as non-legible to the law (and thus illegal) helps illuminate how text is used as an governmental instrument of control. This segued into a discussion of the production of subjectivity which is produced through the interpolation of our bodies by society and space. Moving through the example of undocumented people in the United States, the way in which these people move through space and time is regulated and determined by their lack of documentation. They are invisibilized and their bodies are seen as not belonging in the same spaces with bodies that are documented. Society interpolates these bodies as “foreign” and not belonging because they are “illegal” and thus interact with them in a different manner.
Finally, we discussed and ultimately closed with these questions:
1.Carlson considers two-ness/ doubleness as a critical component of performance. How does this doubleness rely upon ideas of consciousness? What changes in a performance, based on the level of consciousness of the performer and/or audience?
2.What are the advantages and disadvantages of viewing everything (from everyday performances of self to different kinds of staged performances) as “performance”?
3.How might Taylor’s distinction between performative and performatic shift the theoretical conceptualization of performance?
4.De Certeau’s connection between walking, stories, and spatiality posits that the performatic can allows one to enact resistance, albeit ephemerally. Noting this, what are the ways in which walking does and does not push back against dominant scenarios?
5.Carlson brings up a few key questions relating to “the performance of scholarly research and writing” in his conclusions. In the context of academia, how is knowledge created, shared and legitimized? How are fields of study created, developed and how are their boundaries protected (207)?