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: 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.


Symbolic Interaction

Volume 26, Number 1, 2003

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).

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

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

Read out loud the following lines from Stephen Hartnett’s investigative poem. drinking water from plastic jugs hats propped on knees leathery hands scarred from lifetimes Kristofferson/Joplin . Appearances are actualities” (Schechner 1998:362). Performativity is “what happens when history/textuality sees itself in the mirror—and suddenly sees double. in performative utterances the speaking subject is already spoken for. Schechner contends that we inhabit a world where cultures. 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). then the imitative parody of ‘heterosexuality’ . Clearly performativity and performance exist in a tension with one another. and the done. performances “mark and bend identities. surfaces and depths. and performances collide. . and in language (Pollock 1998b:39). “Visiting Mario. 2003 For Butler. Pollock 1998b:42. . by. Lord” ten-thousand sprinklers spin slowly in overlapping circles . In transgressive performances.8 This view of the performative makes it “increasingly dif cult to sustain any distinction between appearances and facts. no “preexisting identity by which an act or attribute might be measured” (1993a:141). Hence. creating spaces for a queer politics of resistance (Butler 1993a:12. “Somewhere Near Salinas. Butler reminds us that there are no original performances. see also Garoian 1999:5). Performance is sensuous. and contingent. . illusions and substances. [the] disruptive” (Pollock 1998b:43). As uid ongoing events. it is the disorienting. Every performance is an original and an imitation. Number 1. texts. performing bodies contest gendered identities. or performing. an imitation that performatively constitutes itself as the original. Performativity “situates performance narrative within the forces of discourse” (Langellier 1999:129). remake time and adorn and reshape the body. for example. tell stories and allow people to play with behavior that is restored. Performativity “becomes the everyday practice of doing what’s done” (Pollock 1998b:43. in a tension between doing. the text. The way a performance is enacted describes performative behavior. Performance and performativity intersect in a speaking subject with a gendered and racialized body. Every performance is an imitation. the performance. . “how people play gender. performing slightly or radically different selves in different situations” (Schechner 1998:361). the discourses of race and gender.190 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. or ‘twice-behaved’” (Schechner 1998:361). a form of mimesis: “if heterosexuality is an impossible imitation of itself. performativity refers to “the reiterative power of discourse to reproduce the phenomenona that it regulates and constrains” (1993a:2).” Performing and performativity interact in these lines. for which there is no original” (1993b:644). heightening their constructed identity. is always and only an imitation. a copy of a copy. emphasis in original). Such collisions require a distinction between “‘as’ and ‘is’” (Schechner 1998:361).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgments: I thank Art Bochner. Mead. . is in relation to other Black bodies. and Rebecca Small for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. and weaving of hair. . 1998). and pedagogy. We face a challenge. cultural pedagogy refers to the ways that cultural production functions as a form of education. a part of me. and the political becomes personal and pedagogical. Laurel Richardson.” Critical pedagogy (McLaren 1998:441) attempts to performatively disrupt and deconstruct these cultural practices in the name of a “more just. all of which operate in the . I have suggested that we need to craft an emancipatory discourse that speaks to the issues of racial inequality under neoliberal forms of governmentality. Number 1. and in these stories culture is performed. like my history. democratic and egalitarian society” (Kincheloe and McLaren 2000:285. as “it generates knowledge. [C]ultural pedagogy refers to the ways particular cultural agents produce . Phelan 1993. Mr. 3. As I sit in the barber’s chair my body. cultural pedagogy. politics. . My hair tells its own story. . and life stories are a part of the process. a part of the experience. This discourse requires a turn to a performance-based approach to culture. Andrea Fontana. Deanna and those who came before and those who will follow are simultaneously present. 2. Dewey. and the staging and performance of texts involving audience members (see Schutz 2001:146). NOTES 1. how to reclaim the progressive heritage given to us by Du Bois. 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. . It does so by using dialogue. Denzin and Lincoln (2000:2) de ne the seven moments of inquiry. of voices. 4. . CONCLUSION In this manifesto I have argued that symbolic interactionism is at a crossroads. But these are my stories. and Blumer. Although this text is a call to performance. Madison 1999. Kathy Charmaz. For McLaren (1998:441) and Kincheloe and McLaren (2000:285). Brown. hegemonic ways of seeing. performative writing. . but see Lather 1998). twisting. A performative cultural studies enacts a critical. Luke. it is not an example of performance writing per se (see Bochner and Ellis 2002. I do not intend this essay to be a deconstruction of the classic journal style. The fading. (Alexander 2002:17) Everybody’s hair tells a story.202 Symbolic Interaction Volume 26. . however. shapes values and constructs identity. I do want to privilege texts that are meant to be performed. We need to explore performance autoethnography as a vehicle for enacting a performative cultural politics of hope. I have outlined provisional interpretive criteria for others to evaluate and continue this important work.

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

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