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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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“You think your wooden barriers are keeping them inside?” Performing Health and Spaces of Contagion in The Knick (Claudia Trotzke)


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Claudia Trotzke

“You think your wooden barriers are keeping them inside?” Performing Health and Spaces of Contagion in The Knick

Abstract: This essay explores the performative dimensions of health and contagion by dealing with interconnections of spaces of contagion, immigration, communicable and venereal diseases, and national security as choreographed in the contemporary U.S. television series The Knick.

Let the “Madness” Begin: First Impressions of The Knick

A dim opium den lit with red light and filled with (half-)naked Chinese women; children poking the corpse of a horse lying on the side of the street; a man in a horse carriage injecting a drug into his body with accelerating disharmonic electronic sounds playing in the background; a well-lit surgical theater where a newly-developed surgery with gory visual detail and extensive blood loss ends with the death of the patient. These first scenes of the U.S. television series The Knick (2014-; directed by Steven Soderbergh) create a New York City of the year 1900 that thrives on contrasts and that sets the stage for discourses of health and contagion to be negotiated throughout the entire series.1 In these initial minutes, the viewer follows the protagonist of the show, Dr. John Thackery, from an opium den in Chinatown via the streets of lower Manhattan to the main setting of the series, the Knickerbocker hospital (short: the Knick) located in a poor neighborhood in downtown Manhattan. There Thackery, a white American...

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