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Approaching Transnational America in Performance

Edited By Birgit M. Bauridl and Pia Wiegmink

The volume is uniquely located at the interdisciplinary crossroads of Performance Studies and transnational American Studies. As both a method and an object of study, performance deepens our understanding of transnational phenomena and America’s position in the world. The thirteen original contributions make use of the field’s vast potential and critically explore a wide array of cultural, political, social, and aesthetic performances on and off the stage. They scrutinize transnational trajectories and address issues central to the American Studies agenda such as representation, power, (ethnic and gender) identities, social mobility, and national imaginaries. As an American Studies endeavor, the volume highlights the cultural, political, and (inter)disciplinary implications of performance.

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Approaching Transnational America in Performance—Introduction (Birgit M. Bauridl and Pia Wiegmink)


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Birgit M. Bauridl and Pia Wiegmink

Approaching Transnational America in Performance—Introduction

In his 2005 monograph, Performance in America: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the Performing Arts, performance studies scholar David Román not only points out the neglect of performance in American Studies,1 but also argues for the relevance of performance in contemporary American culture. He explains:

Performance proves an especially effective means to engage in the contemporary in that artists and audiences are constituted and composed as a provisional collective in a particular temporal moment and in a specific localized space. They may or may not share the same history or future, but in the moment during which they compose a group, they enact and perform a temporary and conditional we. Performance’s liveness and impermanence allow for a process of exchange—between artists and audiences, between the past and the present—where new social formations emerge. (1–2)

Román here sketches performance as a corporeal, participatory event, which has the potential to create physical, immediate meeting grounds between diverse audiences from different cultural and national backgrounds. These participants in a performance experience a moment of cultural encounter and interact with each other. Furthermore, Román emphasizes the idea of national self-fashioning but also of critical self-scrutiny inherent in this form of cultural encounter: “[P]erformance engages the contemporary as a dialogue about the country, its people, and its history” (2). Román’s nation is a...

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