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More about The Mapping Brandeis Project

The Mapping Brandeis Project aims both to create a digital archive or "memory theatre" of spatial practices at Brandeis University, engaged and analyzed at specific times in the recent past, and to enable new realizations of those spaces and practices by future students who explore and interact with the Project online.

Surveying a variety of aesthetic and everyday performance practices on campus, participants in The Project use site-specific and digital performance practices to (re)perform key sites and events from the history of Brandeis University, document the current use of the campus, and create new maps of the campus that might intervene in, reconfigure, and reimagine the Brandeis of the future.

Performance: Social actors' construction of the real, by reflexively engaging their concrete positioning in social relations, demonstrating embodied ways of knowing, negotiating their locations in fields of power and in historical time, and (re)using acquired, in-body techniques to confirm, contest, and revise processes and institutions of social structuration.

Performance may be an interactive process or event (such as a ritual practice in everyday life or a bounded aesthetic event); a mode of analysis; and a strategy for activism and intervention in everyday life.

MAP: I. A chart, plan, diagram, etc. 1. a. A drawing or other representation of the earth's surface or a part of it made on a flat surface, showing the distribution of physical or geographical features (and often also including socio-economic, political, agricultural, meteorological, etc., information), with each point in the representation corresponding to an actual geographical position according to a fixed scale or projection; a similar representation of the positions of stars in the sky, the surface of a planet, or the like. Also: a plan of the form or layout of something, as a route, a building, etc. [. . . .]

MAP: 3. a. A diagram or collection of data showing the spatial distribution of something or the relative positions of its components. [. . . .]

MAP: II. Extended uses. [. . . .] 6. fig. A conceptualization or mental representation of the structure, extent, or layout of an area of experience, field of study, ideology, etc.

--Oxford English Dictionary online, draft revision June 2009, sv. "map, n.1" accessed 28 October 2009

In addition to providing an ongoing, critical archive of embodied interactions and identificatory practices on campus, The Mapping Brandeis Project links students' coursework in Performance Studies to their co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

Participants in the Project have used performance theory to map—cognitively and experientially—interactions among everyday performers at Brandeis University and to think critically about the implicit and explicit expectations, codes, and procedures put into play during those interactions. Our maps are not representations of objective territories but vehicles for the reflexive and recursive engagement of spatialized actions, interactions, and relationships. Our maps are performances.

"[M]aps are not neutral. They perform a particular interpretation of how the world ought to be. [. . . .] [For example, the Mercator projection] enacts the world as the colonial powers wished to view it."

--Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction, 32, 33.

Sociologist Anthony Giddens has located agency in the recursiveness of social action: "[Social activities] are not brought into being by social actors but continually recreated by them via the very means whereby they express themselves as actors" (Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984], 2). The interpretative activity of social actors feeds back recursively into ongoing processes of social structuration, inflecting the reiteration of rules and the distribution of resources.

RECURSION: 1. RETURN 2: the determination of a succession of elements (as numbers or functions) by operation on one or more preceding elements according to a rule or formula involving a finite number of steps

RECURSION: A series of repetitions/restorations in which each repetition/restoration provides the terms for the next restoration/repetition

Perhaps the most crucial of these performative procedures is the construction and reconstruction of subjectivity—one's awareness of oneself as a subject capable of acting in and responding to the given of the world, both producing social reality and produced by social structures, both aware of the limitations of one's body and engaging alternative possibilities of embodiment.

We have asked: What ways of using space to perform oneself and present oneself to others at Brandeis are normative, expected, imaginable, and possible? When and how do institutionalized performances at Brandeis make other forms of personhood (alternative subjectivities) and community unthinkable? What spatial designs, expected behaviors, codes, and procedures at Brandeis constrain our uses of space and constructions of selfhood and community? Under what conditions are alternative uses of space and other presentations of self realizable?

We have been concerned with the structure of institutionalized interactions within an academic setting, with the power relations involved in the production of knowledge and cultural artifacts, and with the possible ways of using institutionally designed spaces.

The Project aims:

(1) to show concretely the relationship of critical theories of embodiment and performativity to material practices and activism,
(2) to use theory to assess practice and practice to evaluate theory, and
(3) to coordinate students' on-campus, co-curricular involvement in performance and the arts, campus leadership, and activism with the critical theories they are studying in their classes.

The Mapping Brandeis Project thereby explores performance as a means for both analysis and action; participants can both “do” and “reflect” in the virtual and physical spaces they are simultaneously occupying.

Over time, participants—including the visitors who add their own memories and experiences—will produce a richly layered, analytical, and interactive map of spaces and spatial practices at Brandeis University.