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Is This Really Happening? Performance and Contemporary Political Horizons

ENGL 125.401
also offered as: FNAR 086, FNAR 586, GSWS 086
Wednesday 5-8:00pm

This class addresses the meeting points inside of and between a range of resistant performance practices with a focus on artists using performance to address political and social encounters in the contemporary moment.


Performance, a chaotic and unruly category that slides across music, dance, theater and visual art, has long been a container for resistant actions/activities that bring aesthetics and politics into dynamic dialogue. Embracing works, gestures, movements, sounds and embodiments that push against and beyond the conventions of a given genre, performance can’t help but rub uncomfortably against the status quo. Scholars working across Performance Studies and Black Studies importantly expanded critical discourse around performance to address the entanglement of the medium with physical, psychic, spatial and temporal inhabitations of violence and power. Generating copious genealogies of embodied resistance, this scholarship instigates a complex, interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective on intersections between art and life, performance and politics.


The class hosts a series of public lectures, presentations and performances by visual artists, choreographers, theater artists, composers/musicians, performers, curators and activists engaged with the social and political moment. Presentations will be open to the public with students in the course developing in-depth research into the work of each visiting artist/performer/presenter to engage the larger context of each visitor’s scholarship and/or practice through readings, discussion and in-class presentations.


This course is open to all interested students. No prior requisites or experience with performance or the performing arts is necessary. For Spring 2021, the public lectures, presentations, performances and class meetings will be adjusted to protocols and current conditions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means most events will be virtual with the possibility of a live outdoor event. This course is cross-listed with Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies 086 and Fine Arts 086.

fulfills requirements