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Toward an Integrative Model of Performance in Transnational American Studies

Birgit M. Bauridl, Pia Wiegmink

Pages 157 - 168


This essay argues for a deeper and more theoretically funded integration of Performance Studies approaches into the field of (transnational) American Studies. It suggests that issues which have become central to the American Studies agenda in the wake of the transnational turn can be fruitfully and at times more adequately addressed by the study of “cultural performances.” We explore theoretical parameters rooted in both fields and link them to conceptual (hypo-) theses that call for and highlight the potential of such an interdisciplinary and integrative approach. Based on the idea of culture as a corporeal, communal, and dynamic event rather than a stable textual product, we position the local particularities of cultural performance visà- vis the dynamics of global mobility. For this purpose, we propose a twofold understanding of “cultural performance” that fuses two disciplinary trajectories: First, we need to examine the role and impact of “cultural performances” as particular ‘acts of cultural expression’ (like daily rituals, festive occasions, or theatrical events) in transnational contact zones—sites in which cultures meet, grapple with each other, and inevitably negotiate questions of socio-political agency, representation, and power. Second, we need to develop and evaluate “cultural performance” as a ‘methodological approach’ for the study of transnational processes.


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