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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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Ghetto Aesthetics: Performing Spatial Inequality in The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Julia Faisst)


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Julia Faisst

Ghetto Aesthetics: Performing Spatial Inequality in The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Abstract: This essay investigates how residential apartheid in a racialized as well as class-based ghetto is culturally performed in Chad Freidrichs’s 2011 documentary film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. The film functions as a transcultural ‘contact zone’ where poor black inhabitants and white policy makers meet—yet debunks the myth only to a certain degree.

Cultural Performances of the Urban Ghetto in Contemporary Television and Film and the Pruitt-Igoe Myth

The carefully staged and widely televised implosion of a public housing unit of the Pruitt-Igoe complex in St. Louis on April 21, 1972, stands as one of the most iconic as well as politicized cultural performances of spatial inequality and the demise of the urban ghetto in the United States. Chad Freidrichs, writer, director, and producer of the 2011 documentary film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, makes this image of willful destruction—a site- and time-specific performance that is corporeal and completed by an audience—the central reference point of his equally performative film. The performative character of the film points to its effective nature as an “active agenc[y] of change” (Turner 24). As a piece of cultural performance, the film creates a metaphorical space, namely a “site of negotiation” that has a particular outcome (Carlson 16). As Birgit M. Bauridl and Pia Wiegmink put it, “cultural performances are not merely artistic productions but provide a space for processes of...

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