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The Inclusive Vision

Essays in Honor of Larry Gross


Edited By Paul Messaris and David W. Park

Larry Gross is one of the most influential figures in the history of media studies. In this collection of original essays, his former students reflect on his groundbreaking contributions to three major developments: the emergence of visual studies as a distinct field of media theory and research; the analysis of media fiction as a symbol of power structures and a perpetuator of social inequalities; and the growing scholarly attention to the relationships between mass media and sexual minorities.

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5. Performance, Then and Now, There and Here: Need All the World Be a Stage? (Barbie Zelizer)


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5. Performance, Then and Now, There and Here: Need All the World Be a Stage?1


The current resonance of “performance” as a prism for understanding is undebatable. Yet as the notion has grown as a way of explaning practice, its viability as a term of reference has shrunk. This chapter considers the intrinsic aspects of performance that have contributed to its billowing usage, showing how broadening the term has always been accompanied by a certain loss of its attributes. This raises questions about whether sharing terms across disciplines can occur without neutralizing the original use-value of the term being shared.

Performance’s Creep Across the Academic Curriculum

Concepts rarely stay in one place or form. They grow, shrink and transform as circumstances warrant. Consonant with the incremental pace of knowledge flow (Kuhn, 1962), the adaptation of knowledge is a sign of healthy knowledge diffusion in the academy.

Central to this dynamic is what psychologists call “concept creep” (Haslam, 2016). Extending on the simple idea that individuals try to understand evolving phenomena by applying old concepts, concept creep occurs both horizontally, expanding spatially to “a qualitatively new class of phenomena,” and vertically, expanding intellectually as “meaning becomes less stringent” (Haslam, 2016, 2). The former case facilitates a concept’s application to new ← 83 | 84 → contexts; the latter involves letting go of a concept’s core attributes so as to accommodate its dissemination.

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