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What is Performance Studies?

Performance Studies examines performances in two broad categories: artistic performances and cultural performances. Artistic performances are performances marked and understood as art: solo-performance, performance art, performances of literature, theatrical storytelling, plays, and performance poetry are all examples of this sort of performance. This category considers performance as an art form.


Cultural performances include those events embedded in everyday life in which a culture’s values are displayed for their perpetuation: rituals such as parades, religious ceremonies, and community festivals as well as conversational storytelling, performances of social and professional roles, and individual performances of race, gender, sexuality, and class. This category considers performance as a way of studying how people move through the world as individuals, construct identity, and build community together.


Performance Studies is also keenly interested in the intersection between these categories. For instance, one might study the performances of a particular culture and turn that study into a staged performance about that culture. Cultural performances influence the kinds of artistic performances that a culture creates and, in turn, those artistic performances influence cultural performances. Therefore, Performance Studies embraces the creative process of making art as well as the critical process of analyzing performances.

Performance Studies first emerged as its own field of study in the last decades of the twentieth century informed by insights from anthropology, sociology, theatre, oral interpretation, communication studies, literary criticism, cultural studies, ethnography, folkloristics, mythological studies, and psychology. Today, performance scholars contribute to these diverse fields of study. A recommended online brochure, "A Student's Guide to Performance Studies," outlines the recent developments in performance studies over the last two decades.



Performance Studies at
Kennesaw State University

The Program in Theatre and Performance Studies here at KSU features performance as an art form, as a field of study, and as a method of inquiry (or a way of knowing) in classes throughout the major. The entire program embraces the idea of embodied learning, “that knowledge—the process of attaining, sharing, and projecting knowing—can be accomplished through doing” (Alexander 415).


The degree program features several required courses in Performance Studies as well as courses that integrate the scholarship of Theatre Studies and Performance Studies, including:

•Introduction to Performance Studies

•Performing Culture

•Performing Literature

•History & Theory I: Ancient through Renaissance Theatre & Performance

•History & Theory II: Neoclassical through Early Modern Theatre & Performance

•Senior Seminar: Contemporary Theatre & Performance.


Additionally, the program offers a Concentration in Performance Studies, which includes:

•Performance Art

•Adapting & Staging Literary Texts

•Performance Composition



•Directing Styles


Redwing: Voice from 1888




Plus a sequence of courses in Storytelling, a distinguishing feature of our program, which includes:

Performing Folktales & Fairy Tales

•Performing World Myth

•Performing Classical Myth

Performing Personal Narrative

Storytelling Practicum, a methods and practice-based course in the art of storytelling that supports the work of The KSU Tellers, a student storytelling performance troupe, whose performances have been featured throughout the metro-Atlanta area as well as at national and international performance festivals.


Finally, our production seasons extend what is learned in our classrooms with public performances of literary works adapted for the stage, performances of ethnography, performance art cabarets, storytelling concerts, and spoken word poetry nights.


To learn more about Performance Studies at KSU:

You may call our department at 770-499-3123. And think about it: a telephone call is a kind of performance—a repeatable interaction with expected and required language, the handling of an object, a beginning-middle-and-end structure, an objective, and an emotional or intellectual effect on another.

"Touch Me" - Original Performance Art



Work Cited


Alexander, Bryant Keith. “Performance Ethnography: The Reenacting and Inciting

of Culture.” The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 3rd ed. Ed. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Thousand Oakes: SAGE, 2005. Print.






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The College of the Arts at Kennesaw State University supports, defends and promotes academic freedom in artistic expression, as outlined by the American Association of University Professors, and diversity of all kinds as outlined by the university's Human Relations Position Statement.

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