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What is Performance Studies?

Diana Taylor, Author

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Acts of Transfer

Acts of Transfer

Diana Taylor, New York University

From The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Performances function as vital acts of transfer, transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity through reiterated, or what Richard Schechner has called “twice-behaved behavior.”[3] “Performance,” on one level, constitutes the object/process of analysis in performance studies, that is, the many practices and events—dance, theatre, ritual, political rallies, funerals—that involve theatrical, rehearsed, or conventional/event-appropriate behaviors. These practices are usually bracketed off from those around them to constitute discrete foci of analysis. Sometimes, that framing is part of the event itself—a particular dance or a rally has a beginning and an end; it does not run continuously or seamlessly into other forms of cultural expression. To say something is a performance amounts to an ontological affirmation, though a thoroughly localized one. What one society considers a performance might be a nonevent elsewhere.

On another level, performance also constitutes the methodological lens that enables scholars to analyze events as performance.[4] Civic obedience, resistance, citizenship, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity, for example, are rehearsed and performed daily in the public sphere. To understand these as performance suggests that performance also functions as an epistemology. Embodied practice, along with and bound up with other cultural practices, offers a way of knowing. The bracketing for these performances comes from outside, from the methodological lens that organizes them into an analyzable “whole.” Performance and aesthetics of everyday life vary from community to community, reflecting cultural and historical specificity as much in the enactment as in the viewing/reception. (Whereas reception changes in both the live and the media performance, only in the live does the act itself change.) Performances travel, challenging and influencing other performances. Yet they are, in a sense, always in situ: intelligible in the framework of the immediate environment and issues surrounding them. The is/as underlines the understanding of performance as simultaneously “real” and “constructed,” as practices that bring together what have historically been kept separate as discrete, supposedly free-standing, ontological and epistemological discourses.

The many uses of the word performance point to the complex, seemingly contradictory, and at times mutually sustaining or complicated layers of referentiality. Victor Turner bases his understanding on the French etymological root, parfournir, “to furnish forth,” “‘to complete’ or ‘carry out thoroughly.’”[5] From French, the term moved into English as performance in the 1500s, and since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has been used much as it is today.[6] For Turner, writing in the 1960s and 1970s, performances revealed culture’s deepest, truest, and most individual character. Guided by a belief in their universality and relative transparency, he claimed that populations could grow to understand each other through their performances.[7] For others, of course, performance means just the opposite: the constructedness of performance signals its artificiality—it is “put on,” antithetical to the “real” and “true.” In some cases, the emphasis on the constructedness of performance reveals an antitheatrical prejudice; in more complex readings, the constructed is recognized as coterminous with the real. Although a dance, a ritual, or a manifestation requires bracketing or framing that differentiate it from other social practices surrounding it, this does not imply that the performance is not real or true. On the contrary, the idea that performance distills a “truer” truth than life itself runs from Aristotle through Shakespeare and Calderón de la Barca, through Artaud and Grotowski and into the present. People in business fields seem to use the term more than anyone else, though usually to mean that a person, or more often a thing, acts up to one’s potential. Supervisors evaluate workers’ efficacy on the job, their performance, just as cars and computers and the markets supposedly vie to outperform their rivals. Perform or Else, Jon McKenzie’s title, aptly captures the imperative to reach required business (and cultural) standards. Political consultants understand that performance as style rather than as carrying through or accomplishment often determines political outcome. Science too has begun exploration into reiterated human behavior and expressive culture through memes: “Memes are stories, songs, habits, skills, inventions, and ways of doing things that we copy from person to person by imitation”—in short, the reiterative acts that I have been calling performance, though clearly performance does not necessarily involve mimetic behaviors.[8]

In performance studies thus, notions about the definition, role, and function of performance vary widely. Is performance always and only about embodiment? Or does it call into question the very contours of the body, challenging traditional notions of embodiment? Since ancient times, performance has manipulated, extended, and played with embodiment—this intense experimentation did not begin with Laurie Anderson. Digital technologies will further ask us to reformulate our understanding of “presence,” site (now the unlocalizable online “site”), the ephemeral, and embodiment. The debates proliferate.

One example of the spectrum of understanding is the debate over performance’s staying power. Coming from a Lacanian position, Peggy Phelan delimits the life of performance to the present: “Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representation. . . Performance’s being, like the ontology of subjectivity proposed here, becomes itself through disappearance.”[9] Joseph Roach, on the other hand, extends the understanding of performance by making it coterminous with memory and history. As such, it participates in the transfer and continuity of knowledge: “Performance genealogies draw on the idea of expressive movements as mnemonic reserves, including patterned movements made and remembered by bodies, residual movements retained implicitly in images or words (or in the silences between them), and imaginary movements dreamed in minds not prior to language but constitutive of it.”[10] Debates about the “ephemerality” of performance are, of course, profoundly political. Whose memories, traditions, and claims to history disappear if performance practices lack the staying power to transmit vital knowledge?

Scholars coming from philosophy and rhetoric (such as J. L. Austin, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler) have coined terms such as performative and performativity. A performative, for Austin, refers to cases in which “the issuing of the utterance is the performing of an action.”[11] In some cases, the reiteration and bracketing I associated with performance earlier is clear: it is within the conventional framework of a marriage ceremony that the words “I do” carry legal weight.[12] Others have continued to develop Austin’s notion of the performative in many diverse ways. Derrida, for example, goes further in underlining the importance of the citationality and iterability in the “event of speech,” questioning whether “a performative statement [could] succeed if its formulation did not repeat a ‘coded’ or iterable statement.”[13] However, the framing that sustains Butler’s use of performativity—the process of socialization whereby gender and sexuality identities (for example) are produced through regulating and citational practices—is harder to identify because normalization has rendered it invisible. Whereas in Austin, performative points to language that acts, in Butler it goes in the opposite direction, subsuming subjectivity and cultural agency into normative discursive practice. In this trajectory, the performative becomes less a quality (or adjective) of “performance” than of discourse. Although it may be too late to reclaim performative for the nondiscursive realm of performance, I suggest that we borrow a word from the contemporary Spanish usage of performance—performático or performatic in English—to denote the adjectival form of the nondiscursive realm of performance. Why is this important? Because it is vital to signal the performatic, digital, and visual fields as separate from, though always embroiled with, the discursive one so privileged by Western logocentricism. The fact that we don’t have a word to signal that performatic space is a product of that same logocentricism rather than a confirmation that there’s no there there.

Thus, one of the problems in using performance, and its misleading cognates performative and performativity, comes from the extraordinarily broad range of behaviors it covers, from the discrete dance, to technologically mediated performance, to conventional cultural behavior. However, this multi-layeredness indicates the deep interconnections of all these systems of intelligibility and the productive frictions among them. As the different uses of the term/concept—scholarly, political, scientific, and business-related—rarely engage each other directly, performance also has a history of untranslatability. Ironically, the word itself has been locked into the disciplinary and geographic boxes it defies, denied the universality and transparency that some claim it promises its foci of analysis. Of course, these many points of untranslatability are what make the term and the practices theoretically enabling and culturally revealing. Performances may not, as Turner had hoped, give us access and insight into another culture, but they certainly tell us a great deal about our desire for access, and reflect the politics of our interpretations.

Part of this undefinability characterizes performance studies as a field. When it emerged in the 1970s, a product of the social and disciplinary upheavals of the late 1960s that rocked academe, it sought to bridge the disciplinary divide between anthropology and theatre by looking at social dramas, liminality, and enactment as a way out of structuralist notions of normativity. Performance studies, which, as I indicated above, is certainly no one thing, clearly grew out of these disciplines even as it rejected their boundaries. In doing so, it inherited some of the assumptions and methodological blind spots of anthropology and theatre studies even as it attempted to transcend their ideological formation. However, it is equally important to keep in mind that anthropology and theatre studies were (and are) composed of various different, often conflicted, streams. Here, then, I can offer only a few quick examples of how some of the disciplinary preoccupations and methodological limitations get transferred in thinking about performance.

From the anthropology of the 1970s, performance studies inherited its radical break with notions of normative behavior promulgated by sociologist Emile Durkheim, who argued that the social condition of humans (rather than individual agency) accounts for behaviors and beliefs.[14] Those who disagreed with this structuralist position argued that culture was not a reified given but an arena of social dispute in which social actors came together to struggle for survival. From the wing commonly referred to as the “dramaturgical,” anthropologists such as Turner, Milton Singer, Erving Goffman, and Clifford Geertz began to write of individuals as agents in their own dramas. Norms, they argued, are contested, not merely applied. Analyzing enactment became crucial in establishing claims to cultural agency. Humans do not simply adapt to systems. They shape them. How do we recognize elements such as choice, timing, and self-presentation except through the ways in which individuals and groups perform them? The dramaturgical model also highlighted aesthetic and ludic components of social events as well as the in-betweenness of liminality and symbolic reversal.

Part of the linguistic stream, anthropologists such as Dell Hymes, Richard Bauman, Charles Briggs, Gregory Bateson, and Michele Rosaldo were influenced by thinkers such as J. L. Austin, John Searle, and Ferdinand de Saussure, who focused on the performative function of communication— parole, in Saussure’s term.[15] Again, as with the dramaturgical model, the linguistic emphasized the cultural agency at work in the use of language: How, to play on Austin’s title, did people do things with words? Like the dramaturgical model, this too stressed the creativity at play in the use of language, as speakers and their audiences worked together to produce successful verbal performances. The linguistic stream was also invested in recognizing the creativity in the everyday life of other people, ways of using language that were resourceful, specific, and “authentic.”

While performance scholars readily adopted the project of taking embodied enactments seriously as a way of understanding how people manage their lives, they also absorbed the Western positioning of anthropology that continued to wrestle with its colonial heritage. The “us” studying and writing about “them” was, of course, a part of a colonialist project that anthropology had come out of, though the scholars working in the 1970s were trying to break away from the paradigm that fetishized the local, denied agency to the peoples they studied, and excluded them from the circulation of knowledge created about them. Yet communication, for the most part, continued to be unidirectional. “They” did not have access to “our” writing. This one-way writing practice revealed the ongoing ambivalence as to whether “they” occupied a different world—in space and time, whether we are interrelated and coeval. The unidirectionality of meaning making and communication also stemmed from and reflected the centuries-old privileging of written over embodied knowledge. Moreover, little thought was given to the many ways in which contact with the “non-Western” had, for centuries, shaped the very notion of “Western” identity. Some anthropologists and theatre scholars were heavily influenced by the modernist impulse to seek the authentic, “primitive,” and somehow purer expression of the human condition in non-Western societies. Attempts in the literature of the 1970s to illustrate that these “others” were in fact fully human, with performance practices as meaningful as “our” own, betray the anxiety produced by colonialism about the status of non-Western subjects.

In spite of the decolonizing sentiments of many anthropologists in the 1970s, the explanatory frameworks they used were decidedly Western. To return to Turner, the most direct influence on performance studies due to his productive association with Richard Schechner, it is clear that whereas the concept of social drama has been foundational to performance studies, the universalist claims he makes for its ubiquity strain against the rather narrow filter he has for understanding it: Aristotelian drama. “No one,” Turner asserts, “could fail to note the analogy, indeed the homology, between those sequences of supposedly ‘spontaneous’ events which make fully evident the tensions existing in those villages, and the characteristic ‘processual form’ of Western drama, from Aristotle onwards, or Western epic and saga, albeit on a limited or miniature scale.” No one, that is, except for those who participated in the events without the slightest notion of these paradigms.[16] Preempting a perceived accusation of Eurocentrism, Turner writes, “The fact that a social drama . . . closely corresponds to Aristotle’s description of tragedy in thePoetics, in that it is ‘complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude . . . having a beginning, a middle, and an end,’ is not, I repeat, because I have tried inappropriately to impose an ‘etic’ Western model of stage action upon the conduct of an African village society, but because there is an interdependent, perhaps dialectic, relationship between social dramas and genres of cultural performance in all societies” (72). Again, Turner’s theories about events structured with a recognizable beginning, middle, and end may have less to do with the “supposedly ‘spontaneous’” events than with his analytical lens. The lens, for him as for everyone else, reveals his (our) desires and interests. He may be correct in noting the interdependency of social and cultural performances within a specific society, yet it might be important to question whether and how this interdependency would work cross-culturally. Moreover, his position as an “objective” observer looking down on the “object” of analysis sets up the unequal, and distorting, perspective that results in the double gesture that characterizes much of the writing about performance practices in contexts other than our own. First, the observer claims to recognize what is happening in the performance of/by the Other. Somehow, this event is reified and interpreted by means of a preexisting Western paradigm. Second, the recognition is followed by a subtle (or not so subtle) put-down: this performance proves a “miniature” or diminished version of the “original.”

From theatre studies—the “maternal” partner, according to Turner (9)—performance studies inherits another form of radicalism: its proclivity toward the avant-garde that values originality, the transgressive, and, again, the “authentic.” This is a different but complementary operation: the non-Western is the raw material to be reworked and made “original” in the West. The presumption, of course, is that performance—now understood as drawing heavily from the visual arts and nonconventional theatrical representations, happenings, installations, body art, and performance art—is an aesthetic practice with its roots in either surrealism, dadaism, or earlier performance traditions such as cabaret, the living newspaper, and rituals of healing and possession. The avant-garde’s emphasis on originality, ephemerality, and newness hides multiple rich and long traditions of performance practice. In 1969, for example, Michael Kirby, a founding member of the soon-to-be-created Department of Performance Studies at NYU, asserted that “environmental theatre is a recent development” associated with the avant-garde, even though he admits examples from the Greek theatre onward that could well be labeled by the same term. It’s the “specific aesthetic element” that, for Kirby, differentiates it from earlier forms.[17] His emphasis on aesthetics, however, does not in fact set recent examples apart from earlier ones. Friar Motolinía, one of the first twelve Franciscans to reach the Americas in the sixteenth century, describes a Corpus Christi celebration in 1538 during which native participants from Tlaxcala created elaborate outdoor platforms “all of gold and feather work” as well as entire mountains and forests populated with both artificial and live animals that were “a marvellous thing to see” and through which spectators/participants walked to gain a “natural” effect.[18] Claims such as the one put forth by Kirby in the late 1960s epitomize the period’s self-conscious obsession with the new, as it forgot or ignored what was already there. These kinds of assertions prompted accusations that the nascent field of performance studies was ahistorical if not antihistorical.


Though ahistorical in some of its practice, there is nothing inherently ahistorical or Western about performance studies. Our methodologies can and should be revised constantly through engagement with other interlocutors as well as other regional, racial, political, and linguistic realities both within and beyond our national boundaries. This does not mean extending our existing paradigms to include other forms of cultural production. Nor does it justify limiting our range of interlocutors to those whose backgrounds and language skills resemble our own. What I am proposing is an active engagement and dialogue, however complicated. Performance has existed as long as people have existed, even though the field of study in its current form is relatively recent. Performance studies emerged on the academic scene with inherited baggage, and it has long tried to overcome and often succeeded in overcoming some of those limitations. The Eurocentrism and aestheticism of some theatre studies, for example, clash against anthropology’s traditional focus on non-Western cultural practices as meaning-making systems. The belief by anthropologists such as Geertz that “doing ethnography is like trying to read . . . a manuscript—foreign, faded, full of ellipses” and that culture is an “acted document” runs up against theatre studies’ insistence on everyone’s active participation and reaction.[21] We are all in the picture, all social actors in our overlapping, coterminous, contentious dramas. Even Brechtian distanciation relies on notions that the spectators are keenly bound up with events happening onstage, not through identification but through participation, and they are often called on to intervene and change the course of the action.

In Latin America, where the term finds no satisfactory equivalent in either Spanish or Portuguese, performance has commonly referred to performance art. Translated simply but nonetheless ambiguously as el performance or la performance, a linguistic cross-dressing that invites English speakers to think about the sex/gender of performance, the word is beginning to be used more broadly to talk about social dramas and embodied practices.[22] People quite commonly refer now to lo performático as that which is related to performance in the broadest sense. In spite of charges that performance is an Anglo word and that there is no way of making it sound comfortable in either Spanish or Portuguese, scholars and practitioners are beginning to appreciate the multivocal and strategic qualities of the term. Although the word may be foreign and untranslatable, the debates, decrees, and strategies arising from the many traditions of embodied practice and corporeal knowledge are deeply rooted and embattled in the Americas. Yet, the language referring to those corporeal knowledges maintains a firm link to theatrical traditions. Performance includes, but is not reducible to, any of the following terms usually used to replace it: teatralidad, espectáculo, acción, representación.

Teatralidad and espectáculo, like theatricality and spectacle in English, capture the constructed, all-encompassing sense of performance. The many ways in which social life and human behavior can be viewed as performance come across in these terms, though with a particular valence. Theatricality, for me, sustains a scenario, a paradigmatic setup that relies on supposedly live participants, structured around a schematic plot, with an intended (though adaptable) end. One could say that all the sixteenth-century writing on discovery and conquest restages what Michel de Certeau calls the “inaugural scene: after a moment of stupor, on this threshold dotted with colonnades of trees, the conqueror will write the body of the other and trace there his own history.”[23] Theatricality makes that scenario alive and compelling. In other words, scenarios exist as culturally specific imaginaries—sets of possibilities, ways of conceiving conflict, crisis, or resolution—activated with more or less theatricality. Unlike trope, which is a figure of speech, theatricality does not rely on language to transmit a set pattern of behavior or action.[24] In chapter 2, I suggest that the colonial “encounter” is a theatrical scenario structured in a predictable, formulaic, hence repeatable fashion. Theatricality (like theatre) flaunts its artifice, its constructedness. No matter who restages the colonial encounter from the West’s perspective—the novelist, the playwright, the discoverer, or the government official—it stars the same white male protagonist-subject and the same brown, found “object.” Theatricality strives for efficaciousness, not authenticity. It connotes a conscious, controlled, and, thus, always political dimension that performance need not imply. It differs from spectacle in that theatricality highlights the mechanics of spectacle. Spectacle, I agree with Guy Debord, is not an image but a series of social relations mediated by images. Thus, as I write elsewhere, it “ties individuals into an economy of looks and looking” that can appear more “invisibly” normalizing, that is, less “theatrical.”[25] Both of these terms, however, are nouns with no verb; thus, they do not allow for individual cultural agency in the way that perform does. Much is lost, it seems to me, when we give up the potential for direct and active intervention by adopting words such as teatralidad or espectáculo to replace performance.

Words such as acción and representación allow for individual action and intervention. Acción can be defined as an act, an avant-garde happening, a rally or political intervention, such as the street theatre protests staged by the Peruvian theatre collective Yuyachkani (see chapter 7) or the escraches or acts of public shaming carried out against torturers by H.I J.O.S., the human rights organization composed of children of the disappeared in Argentina (see chapter 6). Thus, acción brings together both the aesthetic and the political dimensions of perform. But the economic and social mandates pressuring individuals to perform in certain normative ways fall out—the way we perform our gender or ethnicity and so on. Acción seems more directed and intentional, and thus less socially and politically embroiled than perform, which evokes both the prohibition and the potential for transgression. We may, for example, be performing multiple socially constructed roles at once, even while engaged in one clearly defined antimilitary acción. Representation, even with its verb to represent, conjures up notions of mimesis, of a break between the “real” and its representation, that performance and perform have so productively complicated. Although these terms have been proposed instead of the foreign-sounding performance, they too derive from Western languages, cultural histories, and ideologies.

Why, then, not use a term from one of the non-European languages, such as Náhuatl, Maya, Quechua, Aymara, or any of the hundreds of indigenous languages still spoken in the Americas? Olin, meaning movement in Náhuatl, seems a possible candidate. Olin is the motor behind everything that happens in life, the repeated movement of the sun, stars, earth, and elements. Olin, also meaning “hule” or rubber, was applied to sacrificial victims to ease the transition from the earthly realm to the divine. Olin, furthermore, is a month in the Mexica calendar and, thus, enables temporal and historical specificity. And Olin also manifests herself/himself as a deity who intervenes in social matters. The term simultaneously captures the broad, all-encompassing nature of performance as reiterative process and carrying through as well as its potential for historical specificity, transition, and individual cultural agency. Or maybe adopt areito, the term for song-dance? Areitos, from the Arawack aririn, was used by the conquerors to describe a collective act involving singing, dancing, celebration, and worship that claimed aesthetic as well as sociopolitical and religious legitimacy. This term is attractive because it blurs all Aristotelian notions of discretely developed genres, publics, and ends. It clearly reflects the assumption that cultural manifestations exceed compartmentalization either by genre (song-dance), by participant/actors, or by intended effect (religious, sociopolitical, aesthetic) that ground Western cultural thought. It calls into question our taxonomies, even as it points to new interpretive possibilities.

So why not? In this case, I believe, replacing a word with a recognizable, albeit problematic, history—such as performance—with one developed in a different context and to signal a profoundly different worldview would only be an act of wishful thinking, an aspiration to forgetting our shared history of power relations and cultural domination that would not disappear even if we changed our language. Performance, as a theoretical term rather than as an object or a practice, is a newcomer to the field. Although it emerges in the United States at a time of disciplinary shifts to engage areas of analysis that previously exceeded academic boundaries (i.e., “the aesthetics of everyday life”), it is not, like theatre, weighed down by centuries of colonial evangelical or normalizing activity. Its very undefinability and complexity I find reassuring. Performance carries the possibility of challenge, even self-challenge, within it. As a term simultaneously connoting a process, a praxis, an episteme, a mode of transmission, an accomplishment, and a means of intervening in the world, it far exceeds the possibilities of these other words offered in its place. Moreover, the problem of untranslatability, as I see it, is actually a positive one, a necessary stumbling block that reminds us that “we”—whether in our various disciplines, or languages, or geographic locations throughout the Americas—do not simply or unproblematically understand each other. I propose that we proceed from that premise—that we do not understand each other—and recognize that each effort in that direction needs to work against notions of easy access, decipherability, and translatability. This stumbling block stymies not only Spanish and Portuguese speakers faced with a foreign word, but English speakers who thought they knew what performance meant.


***Notes 1 - 2 not included in this excerpt.

[3] Richard Schechner, Between Theater and Anthropology (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 36. I am indebted to Paul Connerton for the term "acts of transfer," which he uses in his excellent book, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989), 39.

[4] The as/is distinction is Richard Schechner’s; see his Performance Studies: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2002), 30–32. However, we disagree on whether the is reflects an ontology. For Schechner, "performance is anything but ontological. . . . It is socially constructed through and through" (personal correspondence). I find the tension between the ontological and constructed more ambiguous and constructive, underlining the field’s understanding of performance as both "real" and "constructed."

[5] "Here the etymology of ‘performance’ may give us a helpful clue, for it has nothing to do with ‘form,’ but derives from Old French parfournir, ‘to complete’ or ‘carry out thoroughly." Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982), 13.

[6] The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology states that Steele, writing in Tatler in 1709, used the term in "the sense of a public exhibition or entertainment" and in 1711 to refer to "the one who performs" (777).

[7] "We will know one another better by entering one another’s performances and learning their grammars and vocabularies." Victor Turner, "From a Planning Meeting for the World Conference on Ritual and Performance," quoted in introduction to By Means of Performance: Intercultural Studies of Theatre and Ritual, ed. Richard Schechner and Willa Appel (New York: Cambridge UP, 1990), 1.

[8] Susan Blackmore, "The Power of Memes," Scientific American (October 2000): 65.

[9] Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 1993), 146.

[10] Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (New York: Columbia UP, 1996), 26.

[11] J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, 2d ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1975), 6.

[12] As Jacques Derrida put it in writing about Austin’s performative: "Could a performative utterance succeed if its formulation did not repeat a ‘coded’ or iterable utterance?" "Signature Event Context," in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1982).

[13] Ibid., 326.

[14] See, for example, Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (New York: Free Press, 1915).

[15] See John Searle, "What Is a Speech Act," in Philosophy in America, ed. Max Black (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1965); Dell Hymes, "Breakthrough into Performance," in Folklore, Performance and Communication, ed. D. Ben-Amos and K. S. Goldstein (Hague: Mouton, 1975); Dell Hymes, "The Ethnography of Speaking," in Anthropology and Human Behavior, ed. T. Gladwin and W. Sturtevant (Washington: Anthropological Society of Washington, 1982); Richard Bauman, Verbal Art as Performance (Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 1977); Charles Briggs, Competence in Performance (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1988); Michele Rosaldo, "The Things We Do with Words," Language in Society 11 (1982): 203–35. I am indebted to Faye Ginsburg and Fred Myers for helping me sort out the various streams in anthropology dealing with performance and performativity. I am also indebted to Aaron Glass’s unpublished manuscript, "Performance and Performativity: Cultural and Linguistic Models" (June 2002), for clarifying some of the influences in these streams.

[16] Turner, From Ritual to Theatre, 9.

[17] Michael Kirby, "Environmental Theatre," in Total Theatre, ed. E. T Kirby (New York: Dutton, 1969), 265.

[18] "They had one very striking thing. At each of four corners or turns that the road made, there was constructed a mountain and from each mountain there rose a high cliff. The lower part was made like a meadow, with clumps of herbs and flowers and everything else that there is in a fresh field; the mountain and the cliff were as natural as if they had grown there. It was a marvellous thing to see, for there were many trees: wild trees, fruit trees, and flowering trees, and mushrooms and fungus and the lichen that grows on forest trees and rocks. There were even old broken trees; in one place it was like a thick wood and in another it was more open. On the trees were many birds, both big and small: falcons, crows, owls; and in the wood much game; there were stags, hares, rabbits, coyotes, and very many snakes. These last were tied and their fangs drawn, for most of them were of the genus viper, a fathom in length and as big around as a man’s arm at the wrist. . . . In order that nothing might be lacking to make the scene appear completely natural, there were hunters with their bows and arrows well concealed on the mountain. . . . One had to look sharply to see these hunters, so hidden were they and so covered with branches and lichen from the trees, for the game would easily come right to the feet of men so concealed. Before shooting, these huntsmen made many gestures which aroused the attention of the unsuspecting public." Fray Toribio Motolinía, History of the Indians of New Spain, ed. and trans. Elizabeth Andros Foster (New York: Cortés Society, 1950), 102–3.

[…] ***Notes 19 - 20 not included in this excerpt.

[21] Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 10.

[22] El performance usually refers to events coming out of business or politics, whereas the feminine la usually denotes those that come from the arts. I am indebted to Marcela Fuentes for this observation.

[23] Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia UP, 1988), xxv.

[24] In Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492–1797 (London: Routledge, 1986), for example, Peter Hulme discusses the narrative of the encounter within the general rubric of "colonial discourse," thereby accentuating the tropes and "linguistically-based practices" that stemmed from it (2).

[25] Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983), 4; Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationality in Argentina’s Dirty War (Durham: Duke UP, 1997), 119.

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