The Call to Performance

Norman K. Denzin
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This article presents a performance-based approach to doing symbolic interactionist inquiry. After a discussion of the vocabulary of performance, I examine the relationship among performance, pedagogy, aesthetics, and politics, including the move to performance ( auto) ethnography.

Educated hope . . . registers politics as a pedagogical and performative act. —Henry Giroux, Public Spaces, Private Lives This essay, in the form of a manifesto, invites symbolic interactionists to think through the practical, progressive politics of a performative cultural studies;1 an emancipatory discourse connecting critical pedagogy with new ways of writing and performing culture (Kincheloe and McLaren 2000:285).2 I believe performancebased human disciplines can contribute to radical social change, to economic justice, to a cultural politics that extends critical race theory and “the principles of a radical democracy to all aspects of society” (Giroux 2000a:x, 25) and to change that “envisions a democracy founded in a social justice that is ‘not yet’” (Weems 2002:3). I believe that symbolic interactionists should be part of this project (see Denzin 1992, 1995, 1997, 2001a, 2001b, 2001c).3 Shaped by the sociological imagination (Mills 1959), building on Perinbanayagam (1991:113, 171) and George Herbert Mead’s discursive, performative model of the act (1938:460; see also Dunn 1998), this way of doing symbolic interactionism attempts to show how terms such as “biography,” “history,” “gender,” “race,” “ethnicity,” “family,” and “history” have always been performative and interactive. Building on Perinbanayagam and Mead, this framework imagines and explores multiple ways in which we can understand performance, including as imitation, or mimesis; as poiesis, or construction; as kinesis, motion, or movement (Conquergood 1998:31). The interactionist moves from a view of performance as imitation, or dramaturgical staging (Goffman 1959), to an emphasis on performance as liminality and construction (Turner 1986), to a view of performance as struggle, as an inter-

Direct all correspondence to Norman K. Denzin, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois–Urbana, 228 Gregory Hall, 810 South Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801; e-mail: n-denzin@uiuc.edu. Symbolic Interaction, Volume 26, Number 1, pages 187–207, ISSN 0195-6086; online ISSN 1533-8665. © 2003 by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. All rights reserved. Send requests for permission to reprint to: Rights and Permissions, University of California Press, Journals Division, 2000 Center St., Ste. 303, Berkeley, CA 94704-1223.

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vention, as breaking and remaking, as kinesis, as a sociopolitical act (Conquergood 1998:32). Viewed as struggle, and intervention, performance and performance events become transgressive achievements, political accomplishments that break through “sedimented meanings and normative traditions” (Conquergood 1998:32). My argument unfolds in four parts. I begin by de ning terms and the call to performance. I then examine the relationship among performance, pedagogy, and politics, including the move to performance in ethnography. Next, I outline performative criteria and performance art in the seventh moment.4 I conclude with a discussion of performance aesthetics and performative cultural politics. In the spirit of Mead and Dewey I intend to create a dialogue within the interactionist community, and thus move our discourse more fully into the spaces of a progressive interactionism. I want to extend those political impulses within the interactionist tradition that imagine a radical, democratic philosophy (Lyman and Vidich 1988:xi). Following Dewey, Mills, Blumer, and Du Bois, these impulses constantly interrogate the relevance of pragmatism and symbolic interactionism for race relations and inequality in the capitalist democractic state (Reynolds 2000:12).

THE CALL TO PERFORMANCE
Many interactionists are in the seventh moment, performing culture as they write it, understanding that the dividing line between performativity (doing) and performance (done) has disappeared (Conquergood 1998:25). But even as this disappearance occurs, matters of racial injustice remain. On this, W. E. B. Du Bois ([1901] 1978:281, 288) reminds us that “the problem of the twenty- rst century will be the problem of the color line. . . . [M]odern democracy cannot succeed unless peoples of different races and religions are also integrated into the democractic whole.” Du Bois addressed race from a performance standpoint. He understood that “from the arrival of the rst African slaves on American soil . . . the de nitions and meanings of blackness have been intricately linked to issues of theatre and performance” (Elam 2001:4).5 In his manifesto for an all-black theater, Du Bois (1926) imagined a site for pedagogical performances that articulate positive black “social and cultural agency” (Elam 2001:6). His radical theater (1926:134), like that of Amiri Baraka’s (1979), Anna Deavere Smith’s (1993, 2000) and August Wilson’s (1996), is a political theater about blacks, written by blacks and for blacks, and performed by blacks in local theaters. Radical theater wields a weapon to ght racism and white privilege. bell hooks elaborates the need for a black political performance aesthetic. As a child, she and her sisters learned about race in America by watching “the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday nights.”
Seeing on that show the great Louis Armstrong, Daddy who was usually silent, would talk about the music, the way Armstrong was being treated, and the political implications of his appearance. . . . [R]esponding to televised cultural production, black people could express rage about racism. . . . [U]nfortunately . . . black

1988). performatively. It will connect re exive autoethnography with critical pedagogy and critical race theory (see Ladson-Billings 2000). environmental. certain words do accomplish things. that won’t be televised. scripts. like hooks. McChesney 1999:290). these movements offer “alternative models of radical democratic culture rooted in social relations that take seriously the democratic ideals of freedom. our music. dramatic.6 In their utopian forms. a society where ideals of the feminist.” “performance text. think that’s so cool. A performance text can take several forms: dramatic texts. refers back to meanings embedded in language and culture (Austin 1962. . as acts that open new spaces for social citizenship and democratic dialogue—acts that create critical race consciousness (Giroux 2001a:9).” and “imitations. a performance involves actors.” “performativity.” “performer. green. and improvised readings. 1997. (hooks 1990:3–4) I fold my project into Du Bois’s and bell hooks’s. shows how the media and white culture shape African American experience: “This evolution will not be televised” Our image. Derrida 1973. pedagogical politics of hope imagines a radically free democratic society. stories. queer. our braids. liberty. A performative. (Weems 2002:4) Performance and Performativity The following terms should be examined in greater detail: “performance. It will necessarily treat political acts as pedagogical and performative. such as a poem or play. Performances are embedded in language. natural texts.The Call to Performance 189 folks were not engaged in writing a body of critical cultural analysis. or transcriptions of everyday conversations. staged. civil rights. . by asking how a radical performative social science can confront and transcend the problems surrounding the color line in the twenty. and interactions (Burke 1969). and the pursuit of happiness” (Giroux 2001a:9). Weems. our rhythms are played on TV like a long 78 album in commercial after commercial The Colonel in plantation-dress raps and moonwalks selling a black woman’s stolen fried chicken.rst century. stages. ethnodramas (Mienczakowski 2001). The act of performing “intervenes between experience and the story told” (Langellier 1999:128).” “performing. That is. Such a project will write and perform culture in new ways. our mistakes. .” “originals.” An interpretive event. black kids snap their ngers. and what they do. Excerpts from Mary Weems’s poem “This evolution will not be televised” (2002) clarify my project. and labor movements are realized (Giroux 2001a:9. purposes. our asses. 1993b.7 Butler 1993a. bug their mamas for extra-crispy This is a never-ending story.

Clearly performativity and performance exist in a tension with one another. Schechner contends that we inhabit a world where cultures. then the imitative parody of ‘heterosexuality’ . As uid ongoing events. and performances collide. remake time and adorn and reshape the body. tell stories and allow people to play with behavior that is restored. texts.190 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. Appearances are actualities” (Schechner 1998:362). Lord” ten-thousand sprinklers spin slowly in overlapping circles . Pollock 1998b:42. Number 1. performing bodies contest gendered identities. heightening their constructed identity. Read out loud the following lines from Stephen Hartnett’s investigative poem. emphasis in original). Performativity derives its power and prerogative in the breaking and remaking of the very textual frameworks that give it meaning in the rst place (Pollock 1998b:44). Every performance is an imitation. and the done. Performance is sensuous. Performance and performativity intersect in a speaking subject with a gendered and racialized body. [the] disruptive” (Pollock 1998b:43). illusions and substances. and in language (Pollock 1998b:39). a copy of a copy. for example. by. Such collisions require a distinction between “‘as’ and ‘is’” (Schechner 1998:361). in performative utterances the speaking subject is already spoken for. “Visiting Mario. performances “mark and bend identities. 2003 For Butler. and contingent. the discourses of race and gender. drinking water from plastic jugs hats propped on knees leathery hands scarred from lifetimes Kristofferson/Joplin . or performing. a form of mimesis: “if heterosexuality is an impossible imitation of itself. creating spaces for a queer politics of resistance (Butler 1993a:12.8 This view of the performative makes it “increasingly dif cult to sustain any distinction between appearances and facts.” Performing and performativity interact in these lines. Butler reminds us that there are no original performances. . the performance. it is the disorienting. see also Garoian 1999:5). for which there is no original” (1993b:644). In transgressive performances. Hence. surfaces and depths. . Performativity “situates performance narrative within the forces of discourse” (Langellier 1999:129). is always and only an imitation. or ‘twice-behaved’” (Schechner 1998:361). performing slightly or radically different selves in different situations” (Schechner 1998:361). “Somewhere Near Salinas. no “preexisting identity by which an act or attribute might be measured” (1993a:141). performativity refers to “the reiterative power of discourse to reproduce the phenomenona that it regulates and constrains” (1993a:2). the text. Performativity is “what happens when history/textuality sees itself in the mirror—and suddenly sees double. “how people play gender. . an imitation that performatively constitutes itself as the original. . in a tension between doing. Every performance is an original and an imitation. The way a performance is enacted describes performative behavior. Performativity “becomes the everyday practice of doing what’s done” (Pollock 1998b:43.

This means it is necessary to rethink the relationship between · · · · · performance and cultural process. Autoethnographers insert their experiences into the cultural performances being studied. choking the old Mexican woman sobs her boy is cuffed and taken back to hell the Vietnamese couple whispers to their son who looks over their hunched shoulders . then today we need a model of social science which is performative. . . or coperformance (Conquergood 1991:190). Jones begins her poem by rst referencing Peggy Phelan . highlighting the methodological implications of thinking about eldwork as a collaborative process. emotion. she nds herself crying as she watches the nal scene in The Way We Were: I am crying. Stacey Holman Jones (2002:45) writes of herself and her love of unrequited love.” I cry for Katie and Hubbell. It speaks of her relationship to torch singers like Billie Holiday. Performances and their representations reside in the center of lived experience. 7) TOWARD A PERFORMATIVE CULTURAL POLITICS 9 With terms in place. We study it through and in its performative representations. All interactionists concur with the rst pair: culture is a verb. performance and hermeneutics. 1998. (2002:2. not a text.The Call to Performance 191 of harvesting glory of California for ve dollars a day . So conceived. performance and the act of scholarly representation. I have to see only that last scene. Schechner 1998:360). not a noun or a product or a static thing. . . a process. fantasy. performance and ethnographic praxis. Speaking of love. We cannot study experience directly. culture turns performance into a site where memory. performance and the politics of culture (Conquergood 1991:190). Each pair is predicated on the proposition that if the world is a performance. each of which pairs performance with another term (Conquergood 1991:190. The second cluster brings performance and ethnographic praxis into play. and desire fuel one another (Madison 1998:277). Consider now this poem by Jones. . I cry each time I see the nal scene between Katie and Hubbell in The Way We Were. . for the way they tried. but just couldn’t make their relationship work. the call to performance within the interactionist community concerns ve questions. an ongoing performance. hear only those last sounds. “Memories .

A radical pedagogy underlies this notion of performative cultural politics. Hermeneutics is the work of interpretation and understanding. to “Me and Bobbie McGee. As pedagogical practices. and privileges performed experience as a way of knowing. memory. ethics. Look at you seeing me. Performances deconstruct. or at least challenge the scholarly article as the preferred form of presentation (and representation). Foucault reminds us that power always elicits resistance. Your eyes. Thus performed experiences are sites where felt emotion. We should treat performances as a complementary form of research publication. . The concepts of militant utopianism and educated hope are realized in the moment of resistance (Giroux 2001b:109) This utopianism and vision of hope moves from private to public. In these sounds and feelings I feel closer to her desire to live the torch song. . from biographical to institutional. . Conquergood (1991:190) remains rm on this point. The performative becomes an act of doing. performances make sites of oppression visible. an alternative method or way of interpreting and presenting the results of one’s ethnographic work. and politics in the fth pair. compassion. Performances become a critical site of power. Reading Jones’s poem out loud allows me to hear her voice. politics. and scholarly representation. and the Vietnam War. who states: “All seeing is hooded by loss. [I]n looking at the other . welcome it. the pedagogical. on me. and views personal troubles as public issues. but through its ability to evoke and invoke shared emotional experience and understanding between performer and audience. violence. This utopianism tells and performs stories of resistance. and to Mexican laborers in the Salinas Valley. and understanding come together. In the process. write. through Peggy Phelan. Knowing refers to those embodied. and the political (Giroux 2000a:134–35). and through my voice connect with Holiday. Jones writes: I feel the slipping away. California prisons. reading the lines from Hartnett’s poem takes me back to Janis Joplin. A performance authorizes itself. and love (Hardt and Negri 2000:413). as a method of critical inquiry. Number 1. Similarly.” to Kris Kristofferson. justice. not through the citation of scholarly texts. . tangled up memories. . lost other . . sensuous experiences that create the conditions for understanding (Denzin 1984:282). desire. The fourth and fth pair of questions speak to the unbreakable link between hermeneutics.192 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. . 2003 (1993:16). pedagogy. . dream about. Steadily watching myself re ected in your gaze. Turn over the memory of a long. I want to live the torch song I think. the subject seeks to see” herself. . community. joy. (2002:49) The third pair connects performances to hermeneutics. an act of resistance. and as a mode of understanding. green like mine. injustice. Through performance I experience Jones’s feelings that are present in her performance text. they af rm an oppositional politics that reasserts the value of self-determi- . a way of connecting the biographical.

PERFORMANCE. PEDAGOGY. plural. violence that produces voiceless screams of terror and insanity. She uses the term “cre- . Thus performance pedagogy energizes a radical participatory democratic vision for this new century. enlarged. in neighborhoods. in experimental community theaters. They consist of partial. The Move to Performance Ethnography A shift in the meaning of ethnography and ethnographic writing has accompanied the move to performance. AND POLITICS The current historical moment requires morally informed performance disciplines that will help people recover meaning in the face of senseless. This performative approach puts culture into motion. A militant utopianism offers a new language of resistance in the public and private spheres. Such formations are more inclusionary and better suited for thinking about postcolonial or “subalteran cultural practices” (Conquergood 1998:26). Pelias 1999:ix. terror. in local and national parks. Never have we had a greater need for a militant utopianism to help us imagine a world free of con ict. Performance approaches to knowing insist on immediacy and involvement. narrates. Building on Diawara (1996:304). “Performance-sensitive ways of knowing” (Conquergood 1998:26) contribute to an epistemological and political pluralism that challenges existing ways of knowing and representing the world. discourses. brutal violence. In these spaces and places. in independent coffee shops and bookstores. Stegner 1980:146). the hallmarks of the textual and positivistic paradigms (Conquergood 1998:26. in experiences in nature. We need an oppositional performative social science. Consistent with the interactionist tradition. and contingent understandings—not analytic distance or detachment. in wilderness areas. critical democratic culture is nurtured (see Giroux 2001b:125. “through communicative action. on playing elds. and experiences within our public institutions.10 Cynicism and despair reign (Giroux 2000a:110). Richardson (2000:929) observes that the narrative genres connected to ethnographic writing have “been blurred. performance disciplines that will enable us to create oppositional utopian spaces. create and continue to create themselves with the American experience” (Diawara 1996:304). our performative approach will create a multiracial cultural studies. We must nd a space for a cultural studies that moves from textual ethnography to performative autoethnography. It examines. altered to include poetry [and] drama” (see also Richardson 2001). This pedagogy of hope rescues radical democracy from the conservative politics of neoliberalism (Giroux 2001b:115). and performs the complex ways in which persons experience themselves within the shifting ethnoscapes of today’s global world economy (McCall 2001:50). Conquergood (1998:26) and Diawara (1996) are correct.The Call to Performance 193 nation and mutual solidarity. and death. performance ethnography studies the ways in which people. incomplete. xi).

Middle East politics.11 which blur the edges between text. . representation. trains and Port Authority Terminal. In a tunnel. fear. layered texts. co-constructed performance narratives. see also Alexander 1999:300. racial pro ling and anxious worries about what’s coming next. . millions of nightmares startle and awaken. memories. cultural criticism. morally and politically self-aware. The air in the City chokes with smoke. conversations. . Death. personal narratives of the self. . orphans. and criticism. Autoethnography becomes a way of “recreating and re-writing . a number of interpretive social scientists wrote about this event and its meanings in their lives. .194 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. shockingly alive with joy. a way of making the past a part of the biographic present” (Pinar 1994:22). alone and dark. comfort and pleasure. . critical autobiography. No apparent reason. shoulders down. . and that’s without the undocumented workers whose families can’t tell. Two days later Fine writes: The Path train stopped. ghosts. imperialism. and the terrors of terrorism sit in the same room. the homeless men and women whose families don’t know. She uses her own experiences in a culture “re exively to bend back on self and look more deeply at self-other interactions” (Ellis and Bochner 2000:740. Number 1.S. talk of God. . Michelle Fine’s (2002:137–38) narrative text opens thus: “The Mourning After” 12. Life in America after 11 September 2001 After the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. Kincheloe and McLaren 2000:301). throughout the metropolitan area. and performance writing. politics then and now. 2003 ative analytic practice” (CAP) to describe these many different re exive performance narrative forms. military and patriotism chase us all. U. Each evening. . Now a ood of ags. the biographic past. . . Anxiety. . clouds and creeping nationalism. Those of us in New York seem to be having trouble writing. creative non ction. writing stories. photographic essays. They died before they could know what we now know. They located their statements with this violent experience in the present. fragmented.September You can tell who’s dead or missing by their smiles. ction. . analyses of U. Five thousand dead and still counting. The task of autoethnography is now apparent: it helps the writer “make sense of the autobiographic past” (Alexander 1999:309). memoirs. . Is this an ok way to die? Lives and politics. no smiles. Their photos dot the subways. grief and analysis. personal histories. esh. In each of these forms the writer-as-performer is self-consciously present. self stories. The not-dead travel on subways and trains lled with hollow eyes. I couldn’t breathe. These forms include not only performance autoethnography but also short stories. ferries. . personal essays.S.

Troubling the usual distinctions between self and other. the said. . ideological purity. we use performance as a lever for questioning earlier generations’ ethnographic textualism. It values intimacy and involvement as forms of understanding. and agency back into play” (Conquergood 1998:31). I call my children. through television cameras and media voices. context replaces text. The ethnographer reads culture as if it were an open book (Conquergood 1998:29). The performance paradigm privileges an “experiential. I call my grandchildren. Following Conquergood (1998:26) and Pollock (1998a. This stance allows the self to be vulnerable to its own experiences as well as to the experiences of the other (Behar 1996:3). to perform culture by putting “mobility. . . a textualism that produces books with titles such as Writing Culture (Conquergood 1998:26). be that family. my rst thoughts are—the children. and the airplane/tower. motion. airplane/tower over and over until it’s All Fall Down. they fold their own life histories and testimonios into the self-stories of others. the performance ethnographer takes a stand (Conquergood 1998:31. detachment. . or academize. . action. 2001: When I hear of the airplanes and the towers. as the adults are. I call my grandson’s mother to see how Akiva is doing. structures become processes. Textualism privileges distance. . performance autoethnographers anchor their narratives in an ongoing moral dialogue with the members of a local community. The children are seeing the airplane and the second tower. improvisation. I can’t join the discussion. and not the doing (Conquergood 1998:31). . On Rosh Hashanah the rabbi said “Choose Life. Geertz 1973:23–24). And All Fall Down again and again. She tells me that he was afraid an airplane would hit his school. participatory epistemology” (Conquergood 1998:27). . In this interactionist epistemology. I write this piece. And then I see that the children are being told. 1998b:40). . By privileging struggle. verbs replace nouns. . . textual models turn culture into an ensemble of written words (Conquergood 1998:28. . or colleagues. situationally speci c practices and articulations. locality.The Call to Performance 195 How do you write the meaning of the present. when you have never experienced the nightmares and terror that de ne the present? Laurel Richardson (2002:25) writes: September 11. The emphasis is on change. In contrast. contingency. I don’t have any answers. neighbors. What can I say? What can anyone say? My email Listservs are repositories for quick xes. What will the children be told?. I pray. analyze. . the performance of con/texts (Pollock 1998b:38). . and not the saying. I refuse to intellectualize. .” I meditate on our small world. . These are performance events. . the done. As these examples demonstrate. the performance autoethnographer struggles to put culture into motion (Rosaldo 1989:91). struggle. Using the methods of inscription and thick description. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett . . My heart breaks for the children whose lives are broken. I call my stepchildren.

offering emotional support to one another. the poet-performer says. Performance autoethnography now becomes a civic. In these performances of resistance. In rereading the Sullivan show. The dividing line between text and context falls away. much like Du Bois’s allblack theater (Kemmis and McTaggart 2000:568. Performances are the sites where context. This project centers on an ongoing moral dialogue involving the shared ownership of the performance-project itself. performers claim a positive utopian space where a politics of hope can be imagined. this “Evolution will not be televised. and desires” (Madison 1998:277. This performance ethic asks that interpretive work provide the foundations for social criticism by subjecting speci c programs and policies to concrete analysis. 282). as Langellier (1998:210) argues. create the performance text and the performance event (McCall 2000:426). bell hooks does this when she critically re ects on the way Ed Sullivan treated Louis Armstrong on his 1950s Sunday night television show. In turn. These .196 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. As members of an involved social citizenship. Participatory action theories have roots in liberation theology. a politics that mobilizes people’s memories. 598). 2003 1998:74–78). understood and deployed” (Pollock 1998b:38). agency. hooks lays the foundations for a critical race consciousness. and human rights activism in Asia and elsewhere (Kemmis and McTaggart 2000:568). neo-Marxist approaches to community development. Paraphrasing Kemmis and McTaggart (2000:598). Texts are inseparable from contexts and the “processes by which they are made. The autoethnographer invites members of the community to become coperformers in a drama of social resistance and social critique. A Politics of Resistance The emphasis on the politics of resistance connects symbolic interactionism and performance autoethnographies to critical Marxist participatory action theories (McLaren 2001). As Mary Weems. co-performers bear witness to the need for social change (Langellier 1998:210–11). praxis. “they enact a politics of possibility. members of the community. context cannot be separated from cultural practices. Performers show how speci c policies and practices affect and effect their lives (Mienczakowski 2001). the doing and the done collide. Number 1. collaborative project. Together. history. this form of performance inquiry helps people recover and release themselves from the repressive constraints embedded in the racist structures of global technocapitalism.” In this moment. and subjectivity intersect (Langellier 1999:127). This happens precisely at that moment when the conditions of identity construction are made problematic and located in concrete history. These theories enable social criticism and sanction nonviolent forms of civil disobedience (Christians 2000:148). the personal becomes political. as cultural workers. An improvisatory politics of resistance is anchored in this space where cultural performances. These community-based interpretations represent an emancipatory commitment to community action that performs social change. which are performances. fantasies. participatory. Acting from an informed ethical position.

the other still works in the University cafeteria” (Madison 1998:279). For the two African-American women who led the strike. it was a dif cult time and an unforgettable ordeal. and better working conditions. housekeepers. overtime pay. Brooks. One woman was red. and material consequences (Madison 1998:283–84). Smith said that a night like this “made her struggle worthwhile” (p. The Chapel Hill police “circled the cafeteria with guns in hand. Her grandchildren reported that they “now understood their grandmother’s life better after seeing the performance” (p. . moral. The next day the press reported that “the production told a true and previously untold tale” (p. In a performance of possibilities. almost thirty years later. grandchildren. Smith and Mrs. After some time. 280). Madison observes that although the university never acknowledged the “strike leaders’ struggle or their contribution to labor equity on campus. the leaders. Pedagogical performances have artistic. brick masons. . Baraka ([1969] 1998:1502) said. . political.” On opening night the strike leaders and their partners. In 1993 the University of North Carolina was celebrating its bicentennial. and classes were canceled. Madison (1998:279) notes that some people “felt it was time to honor the leaders of the (in)famous 1968 cafeteria workers strike. 280). They move people to action. yard keepers. we want poems that wrestle cops into alleys and take their weapons . Madison reports that four years later workers still stop her on campus and “remember and want to talk. cafeteria workers. 279). They give voice to the subaltern—They do something in the world. A performance of possibilities gives voice to those on the margin. 280). Smith and Mrs. Brooks were introduced and “the audience gave them a thunderous and lengthy standing ovation” (p. In 1968 two African American women employed as cafeteria workers at the University of North Carolina led a strike. a performance based on the personal narratives of the two leaders and other service workers was nally scheduled. with pride . Mrs. 298). break through unfair closures and remake the possibility for new openings” (Madison 1998:284. At the end of the performance Mrs. They protested for back pay.The Call to Performance 197 are pedagogical performances that matter. moving them for the moment to the political center (Madison 1998:284). emphasis in original). and mail carriers “were the honored guests with reserved seats before an over owing crowd” (p. as well as labor culture on campus. moral responsibility and artistic excellence combine to produce an “active intervention to . A Politics of Possibility Madison shows how this politics of possibility works. 280). . children. The national guard was called in. watched themselves and their story being performed in a crowded theatre” (p. Mrs. and friends.

This ethic calls for dialogical inquiry rooted in the concepts of care and shared governance. performance pedagogy privileges the experience. This kind of political theater moves in three directions at the same time. political spaces. are “unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time” (Morrison 1994:497). This performance did not create a revolution. and audience members into new. performers. The best art. a liminal event that marked a crisis in the university’s history. In honoring subjects who have been mistreated. PERFORMATIVE CRITERIA IN THE SEVENTH MOMENT In the seventh moment the criteria for evaluating critical performance events combine aesthetics. Number 1. which in turn supports pedagogical conditions for an emancipatory politics (Worley 1998:139). The performance gives the audience. such performances contribute to a more “[e]nlightened and involved citizenship” (p. passion and critique” (p. fusion of critical pedagogy and performance praxis uses performance as a mode of inquiry.12 Like hooks’s black aesthetic (1990:111) . This performance ethic seeks external grounding in its commitment to a postMarxism and communitarian feminism with hope but no guarantees. 280). audiences. as a method of doing evaluation ethnography. 280). the best performance autoethnographies. It seeks to understand power and ideology through and across systems of discourse. This form of critical. empowering “them before strangers and kin” (p. How this ethic works in any speci c situation cannot be predicted in advance. Thus. Such performances enact a performance-centered evaluation pedagogy. and the importance of turning evaluation sites into democratic public spheres (see Worley 1998). 281). It understands that moral and aesthetic criteria are always tted to the contingencies of concrete circumstances. and performers. as a path to understanding. It can help to create a progressive and involved citizenship. Critical performance pedagogy informs practice. as a means to mobilize people to take action in the world. 2003 and satisfaction. 282). This form of praxis can shape a cultural politics of change. The performance allowed these women and their families to bear witness to their suppressed history. critical. and the performers. It has not been done before. “equipment for [this] journey: empathy and intellect. The performance redressed this historical breach and brought dignity and stature to those who had been dishonored by the past actions of the university. The performance became an epiphany. 280). but it was “revolutionary in enlightening citizens to the possibilities that grate against injustice” (p. collaborative. subjects. about that night four years ago when their stories were honored in performance” (p. assessed in terms of local understandings that ow from a feminist moral ethic (Christians 2000). as a tool for engaging collaborative meanings of experience. economic. the concept of voice. These performances interrogate and evaluate speci c social. it shapes subjects. and epistemologies. The performance of these stories helped these workers tell their story. educational.198 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. and political processes. The performance becomes the vehicle for moving persons. ethics.

as it was for Du Bois (1926:134). Karenga ([1972] 1997).14 PERFORMANCE ART This black performance aesthetic. and myth (Collins 1991:212–13). . performative pedagogy. Performers show how a participatory. It is democratic. and power and create the possibilities for a practical. Such art is committed to political goals. lived experience. feminist. a movement that has had various names: performance art. morally neutral standpoint exists. and expresses lore. Radford-Hill 2000:25. this art would be. these performance criteria erase the usual differences between ethics. and must be returned to the people. our manifesto presumes that no objective. a manifesto for a critical performance art and authoethnography. nonhierarchical relationship to the larger moral universe.15 New genre artist Suzanne Lacy (1995:9–10) states that this is “an art whose public strategies of engagement are an important part of its aesthetic language. and committed. made by blacks. This dialogical aesthetic enacts an ethic of care. communitarian13 terms. and beauty (“Black Is Beautiful”) and a notion of experiential and shared wisdom. a theorist of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s. .The Call to Performance 199 and Giroux’s public pedagogy (2000b:25). knowledge. Unlike much what of has heretofore . love. takes sides. Anchored in a speci c community of moral discourse. for. community art. “in a form more beautiful and colorful than it was in real life. or lm made the life of a single black person (Gayle 1997:1876). and about the people. Hence. the performer seeks new standards and new tools of evaluation. an Afrocentric feminist aesthetic (and epistemology) stresses the importance of truth. Collectively. In feminist. collective. kindness. and nonviolence (Christians 2000:147). black art comes from the people. Wisdom so conceived derives from local. activist art. and the moral good (Christians 2000:144–49). folktale. as cultural critic. communitarian ethic addresses situations of injustice. Politically and functionally. It presents a moral community ontologically preceding the individual. politics. . Giroux 2000a:130). This community has shared moral values that include concepts of shared governance. and located in local black communities. This ethic declares that all persons deserve dignity and a sacred status in the world. truth telling. This ethic embodies a sacred. play. Miles 1997:164. black theater about blacks. [A]rt is everyday life given more form and color” (Karenga [1972] 1997:1974). a call for performances to interrupt and intervene in public life. novel. melody. Rice 1990:207). and “new genre public art” (Lacy 1995:20. for example. . functional. an ethic of personal and communal responsibility (Collins 1991:214. for example. . argued that black art should be political. art by. It stresses the value of human life. . In advancing this utopian project. existential epistemology that locates persons in a noncompetitive. neighborliness. for blacks. It celebrates diversity. complements a new movement in the arts. the performer. asked how much more beautiful a poem. personal and collective freedom. Advocates of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s.

Number 1. McCall 2000:423). . performances. and activist (Garoian 1999:8). Anna Deavere Smith (1993. that there is no genuine democracy without genuine opposition. Du Bois’s radical black theater performs scenes of liberation for an oppressed people. embedded in the conservative backlash of the 1980s and 1990s. shaped this movement: increased racial discrimination. cultural censorship targeted at women and ethnic and homosexual artists. Over the past decade. She titles her series On the Road: A Search for American Character.” Performance art is “predicated on a history of cultural resistance” (Garoian 1999:10). . and social change” (Giroux 2000a:136). It shows how public laws and policies in uence personal decisions. It shows how the limits of the public sphere shape changes in the private sphere (Miles 1997:169). like critical performance ethnography. This art understands. They make the “political visible through [performative] pedagogical practices that attempt to make a difference in the world rather than simply re ect it” (Giroux 2000a:37). lies in its ability to initiate a continuing process of social criticism in the public sphere. Attacking boundaries.] . new genre public art draws on ideas from vanguard forms. . installations. It transgresses “the con nes of public and domestic domains” (Miles 1997:167). dialogue. showing how art should be a force for information. New genre public art is performative. The Pedagogical as Performative These new artistic formations move from the global to the local. new genre public art . Activist art challenges the relation of art and the artist to the public domain. the value of new genre activist art. abuse. 1994) has created a series of one-woman performance pieces about race and racism in America (1993:xvii). black theater artist and educator. domestic violence and AIDS” (Miles 1997:64). bell hooks’s black aesthetic and Rebecca Rice’s black theater imagine and perform liberated subjectivities for African American women. This art engages “de ned publics on issues from homelessness to the survival of the rain forests. performance art dissolves the “differences between artists and participants[. might include . . 2003 been called public art. . who quotes the late Pierre Bourdieu.17 the political to the personal. .200 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. the pedagogical to the performative. political. threats to women’s rights. . and deepening health (AIDS) and ecological crises. conceptual art. and addiction (1990:212). According to Lacy (1995:28). provides another example. Her performances illuminate the beauty and dignity of black women who have been victims of violence. Rice seeks a theater for social change. In the hands of cultural workers like Suzanne Lacy. four historical factors. It reclaims the radical political identity of the artist as social critic (McCall 2000:421). feminist. . to paraphrase Giroux (2000a:136). . mixed-media art. . Earlier formations can be found in performance art and avant-garde experimental theater movements of the 1970s and 1980s (Garoian 1999:10. It is revolutionary art.16 Rebecca Rice. Performance art does not subscribe to the tradition of High Culture. Paraphrasing Miles (1997:164).

students. personal.The Call to Performance 201 Performance art is shaped by six pedagogical strategies. The third pedagogical strategy uses performance art as a way of generating spectacles of resistance which challenge the structures of power that circulate in speci c sites like schools or hospitals. 44). . these forms of democratic practice turn the political into a set of performance events. p. Bryant Keith Alexander offers an example of such performances in his discus- . . . juxtaposed .] . p. Using the body as a site of intervention. Occurring in the here and now. misremember. a history . 45). and of the people. with existential experiences” (Diamond 1996:1). and pains. Building on Giroux (2000a:138). culture. 44). . they engage in storytelling” (Garoian 1999:5). They are consequential. The fourth strategy performs community. performative autoethnography (Garoian 1999. creating possibilities for new historical ideas. turning history back in upon itself. . new cultural practices (Diamond 1996:2. These interventions represent pedagogy done in the public interest. democratic art for. As sites of resistance. The second strategy focuses on the performance and use of language as a way of criticizing “the cultural metaphors that codify and stereotype the [racial] self and the body” (Garoian 1999. by empowering citizens to work collaboratively in “restoring . civility in their neighborhoods” (Garoian 1999:44). Garoian 1999:6). the sites of power in everyday life. or happenings. images. “reclaim the political as pedagogical” (Giroux 2000a:138). Through their co-performances cultural workers critique and evaluate culture. community and technology (Garoian 1999. creating discourses that make the struggles of democracy more visible. they invoke a “continuum of past performances. six forms of intervention which trouble the relationships between ethnography. the fth and sixth strategies show howmachine-body transactions scar and shape the material and lived body. They perform testimonios. interpret and passionately revisit . by.18 These texts are located in their institutional and historical moments. The rst strategy is methodological. In these events performers intervene in the liminal and politicized spaces of the culture (Garoian 1999:50). desires. In their performances. . Performance art pedagogy rede nes ethnography as reexive. [the] past and [the] present” (Diamond 1996:1). performance art pedagogy examines the aesthetic experiences that surround the embodied expression of a culture. its fantasies. p. These events. . They initiate and model change. . . eldword. artists. teachers. and scholarly cultural texts. At these levels. and other cultural workers “invoke their personal memories and histories[. and its racial and gender codes (Garoian 1999:45). the body. . These performances join transnational and postcolonial narratives with storytelling about personal problems experienced at the local level. Performance art pedagogy re exively critiques those cultural practices that reproduce oppression. race. illnesses. new subjectivities. they connect “mystory performances” to popular. They make things happen. At the performative level this pedagogy locates performances within these repressive practices. these performances contest situations of oppression. In so doing. They “remember. ideology. language.

a part of the experience. Phelan 1993. and Rebecca Small for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. . I do want to privilege texts that are meant to be performed. . But these are my stories. cultural pedagogy. (Alexander 2002:17) Everybody’s hair tells a story. We face a challenge. We need to explore performance autoethnography as a vehicle for enacting a performative cultural politics of hope. and life stories are a part of the process. 4. Denzin and Lincoln (2000:2) de ne the seven moments of inquiry. how to reclaim the progressive heritage given to us by Du Bois. Dewey. Number 1. I have suggested that we need to craft an emancipatory discourse that speaks to the issues of racial inequality under neoliberal forms of governmentality. 1998). and weaving of hair. . The fading. Mr. as “it generates knowledge. and in these stories culture is performed. and pedagogy. This discourse requires a turn to a performance-based approach to culture. I do not intend this essay to be a deconstruction of the classic journal style. . Deanna and those who came before and those who will follow are simultaneously present. is in relation to other Black bodies. shapes values and constructs identity. and the staging and performance of texts involving audience members (see Schutz 2001:146). and Blumer. My hair tells its own story. Andrea Fontana. however. Although this text is a call to performance. cultural pedagogy refers to the ways that cultural production functions as a form of education. Mead. but see Lather 1998). For McLaren (1998:441) and Kincheloe and McLaren (2000:285). . all of which operate in the . 2003 sion of black barbershops as cultural spaces where the past and the present permeate identities and memories: Black people enter these spaces for cultural maintance and cultural proliferation. 2. NOTES 1. It does so by using dialogue. Madison 1999. Acknowledgments: I thank Art Bochner. it is not an example of performance writing per se (see Bochner and Ellis 2002. hegemonic ways of seeing. I have outlined provisional interpretive criteria for others to evaluate and continue this important work. democratic and egalitarian society” (Kincheloe and McLaren 2000:285. politics. . As I sit in the barber’s chair my body. Kathy Charmaz. A performative cultural studies enacts a critical. and the political becomes personal and pedagogical. like my history. . Luke. Laurel Richardson. a part of me. [C]ultural pedagogy refers to the ways particular cultural agents produce . 3.202 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. Brown. CONCLUSION In this manifesto I have argued that symbolic interactionism is at a crossroads. performative writing. . of voices.” Critical pedagogy (McLaren 1998:441) attempts to performatively disrupt and deconstruct these cultural practices in the name of a “more just. twisting.

a public story.” This de nition authorizes democracy in the participatory and not the representational mode. Those words are written on 14 September 2001. lled with sounds. should be about us. Under this framework. 6. Sharon Irish has helped clarify my understanding of these terms. postexperimental (1995–2000). all inquiry is moral. . and the future (2000– ). In countless public works. music. Pollock 1998a:80– 95). According to Christians (2000:151). . and race . blurred genres (1970–86). These parallel Du Bois’s four criteria for real black theater. the modernist (1950–70). . 14–15. Garoian (1999:42) treats postmodern performance art as a new genre of public art. promising. 108. such theater. . see Garoian 1999:4. Consequently. De nitions: Aesthetics: Theories of beauty. aging. 11. for us. 18. critical theory. Lacy has focused attention on rape. uid concepts” (Elam 2001:4–5). 9. are hybrid. For example. e.] . always incomplete (Phelan 1998:13. immigration. three days after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington. 15. as opposed to ‘constative’ utterances that merely report on a state of affairs independent of the act of enunciation” (Conquergood 1998:32. women’s rights. models a form of local and global resistance in cyberspace. A viable participatory democracy takes the word away from those neoliberal discourses that have reduced democracy to the needs of capitalism and the attendant corporate colonization of public life in America today (Giroux 2001b:122). Ulmer 1989:210) is simultaneously a personal mythology. postmodern or experimental (1990–95).C. 14. Derrida “reworks Austin’s performativity as citationality[. cinematic and multimedia in shape. and those who have power determine what is aesthetically pleasing and ethically acceptable. A mystory (Denzin 1997:116. Performance writing shows. It enacts what it describes. as Elam (2001:5–6) observes. . 7. for criticisms. . by us. nothing is value-free. In Austin’s theory “the term performative designated the kind of utterance that actually does something in the world. theory and practice cannot be divorced. and participatory inquiry. 12. Schechner (1998:362) observes that this is the “performative Austin introduced and Butler and queer theorists discuss. persons of color have never been able to successfully escape the politics and theaters of (racial) representation. 10.The Call to Performance 203 5. thereby emphasizing the hoped-for connection between artist and audience (see also Garoian 1999:27). an anarchist group. Perinbanayagam 1991:113). dissolving constative into performative speech” (Pollock 1998b:39). the crisis of representation (1986–90). citational. 17. Du Bois believed that African Americans needed performance spaces where they could control how race was constructed.g. multivocal. in “The Electronic Disturbance” the Critical Art Ensemble. forgiving . there are three strands of communitarian ethical theory: feminist theory. Performance writing is evocative. near us (1926:134). This section draws from Denzin (2001d:326– 27).” I take the title of this section from Conquergood 1998. knowledge is power. D. . 8. African American theater and performance have been central sites for the interrogation of race and the color line (see also Elam and Krasner 2001). and domestic violence.. 13. Epistemology: Theories of knowing. This personal text (script) is grafted onto discourses from popular culture and locates itself against the specialized knowledges that circulate in the larger society. and a performance that critiques. as the traditional (1900–1950). The inherent “constructedness” of performance and the malleability of the devices of the theater serve to reinforce the theory that “blackness . This genre invites citizens to participate in the production and the collective ownership of performances that intervene in public life. he said. of right. rather than tells. The mystory is a montage text. Ethics: Theories of ought. Stuart Hall (1996:473) is correct. Race and racism for Du Bois were social constructions and performances. re exive. racism. . Minstrelsy and blackface were powerful devices that produced and reproduced the color line. . 16. Austin 1962:5. and images taken from the writer’s personal history. present. McChesney’s (1994:4) de nition of democracy is as good as any: “the many should and do make the core political decisions. suggesting that community or public art usually occurs outside museums and galleries.

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