Aerial View of Brandeis UniversityPerformance and Mapping

The Mapping Brandeis Project and Performance Studies

Performance Studies investigates the iterative activity through which everyday social actors instate culturally and historically specific forms of embodiment, locate themselves in social space, generate liminal and institutional structures, and acquire and rework practical techniques of cultural production. Holding the view that social actors have the capacity to reflect on the asymmetrical power relations and normative procedures that compel repetitions, from the iteration of disciplines and genres to the habitual enactment of gender, performance practitioners and scholars promote the capacity of social actors to reconfigure and resist, as well as replicate, the processes of social structuration.

Performance Studies: The study of cultural production, taking "performance" as an analytical paradigm, object of analysis, research method, occasion for intervention, and vehicle for presenting research findings.

The Mapping Brandeis Project construes "performance" as both a research strategy and a mode for the presentation of research. As performance scholar and ethnographer Dwight Conquergood identified, we might think of performance at Brandeis University:

Each project here engages all three modes of performance.

One of the basic aims of Performance Studies is to interrogate the status and conditions of articulation of the object of analysis and thereby change the focus of inquiry from the static object to the social processes through which that object is constructed. Within academic institutions, Performance Studies has been an interdisciplinary inquiry into the disciplinary processes by which behavior is isolated from the historical flow of social processes and struggles and framed as an object of knowledge or as an aesthetic or cultural artifact.

"[. . .] (one of the primary objects of discipline is to fix; it is an anti-nomadic technique) [. . .]." (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 218)

"[. . . ] a key general characteristic of performance[s:] they perform far more than they mean to [. . .]." [Baz Kershaw, "Ecoactivist Performance: The Environment as Partner in Protest?," The Drama Review (TDR) 46, no. 1 (T173) (Spring 2002): 120, citing Carol Burbank, personal communication 29 March 2001]

"That is why discipline fixes; it arrests or regulates movements; it clears up confusion; it dissipates compact groupings of individuals wandering about the country in unpredictable ways;
it establishes calculated distributions." (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 219)

"The constitutive liminality of performance studies lies in its capacity to bridge segregated and differently valued knowledges, drawing together legitimated as well as subjugated modes of inquiry." [Dwight Conquergood, "Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research," The Drama Review (TDR) 46, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 152]

Students participating in the Project use performance and other critical theories to map interactions among performers at Brandeis University and to analyze the types of subject positions constructed, during those interactions, as normative, expected, thinkable, and possible. Participants 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, as these condition the possibilities for the performative production of personhood at Brandeis.