Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2PS1024

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Anuradha Kapur and SCCE Faculty.

Email of course coordinator: anuradha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Compulsory for all Performance Studies first semester students, no prior knowledge assumed.

Course Objectives/Description:

“Performance is an inclusive term,” defines Schechner. He further goes on to state that Theatre is only one mode of a continuum that reaches from the ritualization of animals (including humans) through performances in everyday life - greeting, displays of emotion, family scenes, professional roles, and so on - through to play, sports, theatre, dance, ceremonies rites and performance of great magnitude (Schechner 1988: pp.1-2). Thus, Performance studies is a discipline or a non-disciplines which has two-fold focus - theory and practice; devised out its borrowings from literature, theatre history, theory, and practice, as well as from anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies by the global reach of its objects of study and its illustrations.

This course explores performance studies in the above stated convergences and divergences in theory and links it to practice. What we seek to is how do we understand performance and does theory facilitate us to have an enhanced interpretation? How can we depict, analyze, and construe performance? Even further, how does one respond to performances which are not performed in conventional theatre building or auditoriums? This course is an introduction to the theories of performance from classical to the contemporary. The part-I of this course offered this semester (monsoon) would cover the classical till early twentieth century, borrowing its major theoretical formulations from ancient theories of arts across culture, primarily from theories from literature, philosophy and anthropology. Roughly the first half is dedicated to the classical theories to establish a strong foundation on which or by critiquing those assumptions; the new theories have developed. The second half of the semester then tries to understand the theoretical shifts during the early 18 and 19th century from literary, theatre studies to the formation of what we now understand to be the corpus of performance studies; in an attempt to define ‘performance’ in the diverse ‘radical’ sense of the term incorporating ideologies, movements and disciplines namely anthropology and ethnography.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • At the end of the course, a student should have acquired an overview of performance theory together with specific knowledge of cultural performance, music, dance, ritual, teaching and learning cross-culturally.
  • The course will encourage students to have an introductory knowledge about the discipline.
  • The course will encourage students to reflect on and respond critically to the theories of performance. Through this, it is expected that students will become participants in the interactive process between performance and its theories.
  • They will be encouraged to avoid making quick estimation of performance practices and instead, arrive at interpretations by understanding various standpoints in the theory and social events which may have led or leads to such performances.
  • By the end of two semesters one would expect that one can articulate commonalities and differences among performance forms and sites and have identified an area of interest which is developed further as an extended research, in form of writing.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Week I& II: Performance and Anthropology

Introducing Anthropology, and then from Ritual to Theatre, difference ‘Ritual Actor’ and ‘Actor in a non ritual set up’

Heishnam Kanhailal, Theatre of Ritual Suffering (A Project). Imphal: Heisnam Publishers, 1997.

Marvin Carlson, “The performance of culture: anthropological and ethnographic approaches,” in Performance: A Critical Introduction (11- 30)

Richard Schechner, “Restoration of Behavior,” Between Theatre and Anthropology (35-116).

V.V. Pillai “Sarpam Tullal: A Ritualistic Performance of Kerala,” Performers and their Arts (29-43).

Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” Daedaulus 101 (1972): 1-38.

Joseph Roach, “Mardi Gras Indians and Others: Genealogies of American Performance,” Theatre Journal 44 (1992): 461-83.

Week III: Performativity and Speech Act Theory

This section will establish the relationship between various ritual and modern performance where speech act at times has a certain sense of legality attached to it.

Austin, J,L. How To Do Things With Words (Focus on the second lecture)

Fabian, J. Theater and Anthropology, Theatricality and Culture. Research in African Literatures, Vol. 30, No. 4, Drama and Performance (Winter,1999), pp. 24-31(JSTOR)

Parker, A and Sedgwick, K. Performativity and Performance. New York & London: Routledge: 1995. (Focus on the Introduction)

{Evaluation:- a fortnightly review note on the preceding rubric due- 250 words..}

Week IV: Performance and Psychoanalysis.

This section would explore how psychoanalysis places an important part in defining our performance act.

Diamond, Elin, The Violence of “We”: Politicizing Identification (in Critical Theory & Performance. pp. 390-398)

Phelan Peggy, Immobile Legs, Stalled Words: Psychoanalysis and Moving Deaths. (in CTP, pp. 432-445

Freedman, Barbara. Feminism, Psychoanalysis,Theatre. In Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, Perspectives in Theatre History (Oct., 1988), pp. 375-397

Screening-(Portrait of Dora (play) 2009, Black Swan (movie) 2010)

Week V& VI: Performance of the Nation-State

This section would be our entry point into the colonial, post-colonial and subaltern studies debates and responses from performance perspective.

Bhabha, Homi K, “How newness enters the world: Postmodern space, postcolonial times and the trials of cultural translation in The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. pp. 212

Spivak, Gayatri , “Introduction” in In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics, London and New York, Routledge, 1987.

Dharwadker, Aparna, “India’s Theatrical Modernity: Re-Theorizing Colonial, Postcolonial, and Diasporic Formations”, in Theatre Journal, Volume 63, Number 3, October 2011, pp. 425-437, (

Screening and discussion- Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghasiram Kotwal, Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi

{Evaluation:- a fortnightly review note on the preceding rubric due- 250 words..}

Week VII & VIII: Performance and Diaspora/ transnational/Region

The earlier rubric would be even further problematized, raising issues concerning diasporas, transnational categories etc. reading available in “Critical Theory and Performance”

Baraka, Amiri, Bopera Theory in Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. eds. P. C. Harrison, V. L. Walker II and G. Edwards. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002).

(Screening –Bopera)

Week IX & X: Performance and Identity:

Under this umbrella rubric, one would explore the cross section of various positions in critical theories ranging from Postcolonial to the queer and their relevance in articulating and interpreting performance.

  • Community

Srampickal Jacob and Richard Boon. “Popular theatre for the building of social awareness: the Indian experience” in Theatre Matters: Performance and Culture on the World Stage eds, Richard Boon and Jane Plastow. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Wa Thion’go, Ngugi. “The Language of African Theatre” in Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. (Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House (Pvt.) Ltd., 1987 rpnt. 1994)

Wa Thion’go, Ngugi. “The Ideology of Racism: War on Peace Within and Among Nations” in Moving The Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (Westlands: East African Educational Publishers Ltd., 1993) pp.116

Screening- To Poi’dam, Badungduppa

  • Caste

Guru, Gopal. “Identity in search of Identification through Theatre” in Our Stage: Pleasures and Perils of Theatre Practice in India. Eds. Deshpande, S, Akshara, K.V. and Iyengar, S. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2009

Datta, Prithvi and Shobhi, Chandra. Introduction: Khadgavagali Kavya (Let Poetry Become [a] Sword) in The Flaming Feet and other essays, D.R. Nagaraj. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2010.

Screening- Satyasodhak

Week XI: Sexualities, Gender & Queer-

Dolan, Jill. Practicing Cultural Disruptions: Gay and Lesbian Representation and Sexualiy, CT & P, (pp. 334)

Roman, David. Performing all our Lives: AIDS, Performance and Community, in CT & P. (pp. 208-222)

(Screening - Bill T Jones)

{Evaluation:- a fortnightly review note on the preceding rubric due- 250 words.}

(Draft Proposal- Term Paper)

Week XII: Performance and Cyborg Culture/Digital Domain

This section explores the contemporary theoretical turn with the advent of digital culture, when Sue Ellen Case write the Domain Matrix etc, that develops an altogether different approach to how we analyse and construe performances.

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, And Socialist-Feminism in The Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs And Women: The Reinvention Of Nature (London & New York: Routledge, 1991), Pp.149-181.


Auslander, Philip. “Live from Cyberspace, or, I Was Sitting at My Computer This Guy Appeared He Throught I Was a Bot” in CT & P, (pp. 526-531)

Blau, Herbert. “Virtually Yours: Presence, Liveness, Lessness” in CT & P, pp.532

Sue-Ellen. “Dracula’s Daughters: In Corporating Avatars in Cyberspace” in CT & P, pp. 547

Evaluation- [Book Review Sections from- Striff, Erin, Performance Studies, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003]

Week XIII: Revisiting Performance Studies and Performance Theory

Schechner, Richard. “Toward a Poetics of Performance” in Performance Theory. (London & New York: Routledge, 1988 rpnt. 1994)

Epskamp, Kees. “Intercultural Puzzles. Richard Schechner and the Anthropology of Theatre in the 20thCentury” in Anthropos, Bd. 98, H. 2. (2003), pp. 499-509 Published by: Anthropos Institute Stable (URL:

Week XIV & XV: Critiques of Performance Studies

We would encounter finally the critiques of so-called ‘theories of performance’ which are in fact informed by these myriad ways of looking at performance that we have already explored over the last two semesters.

Bharucha, Rustom. “Introduction”, “Collisions of Culture” and “afterwords” in Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture. (London and New York: Routledge, 1993)

McKenzie, Jon. “Is Performance Studies Imperialist?” Part 1 : TDR: The Drama Review Vol. 50, No.4 (T192), (Fall, 2006), pp. 5-8

Reinelt, Janelle. TDR comment: Is Performance Studies Imperialist? Part 2, TDR (1988-) Vol.51, No.3 (Fall, 2007), pp.7-16

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Mid Term Submission- (worth 20% of the course grades)
  • Oral Class Presentation-(worth 20% of course grade)
  • End Sem- (25%)
  • Attendance and Class Discussion (25%)

All students must participate in all course assessments to obtain a passing course grade

Reading List:

See Above.