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Performance studies is an interdisciplinary field that studies and uses performance as a lens to study the world. The term 'performance' is broad, and can include artistic and aesthetic performances like concerts, theatrical events, and performance art; sporting events; social, political and religious events like rituals, ceremonies, proclamations and public decisions; certain kinds of language use; and those components of identity which require someone to do, rather than just be, something. Consequently, performance studies is interdisciplinary, drawing from theories of the performing arts, anthropology and sociology, literary theory, and legal studies.
Performance Studies has been challenged as an emerging discipline. Many academics have been critical of its instability. As an academic field it is difficult to pin down; either that is the nature of the field itself or it is still too young to tell. There are, however, numerous degree-granting programs that train researchers being offered by universities. Some have referred to it as an "inter discipline" or a "post discipline."
Performance Studies tends to concentrate on a mix of research methods. The application of practice-led or practice-based research methods has become a widespread phenomenon not just in the anglophone world. As such research projects integrate established methods like literature research and oral history with performance practice, i.e. artistic autoethnographic approaches and verbatim theatre. The documentation of Practice-as-Research in Performance (PARIP), a devoted research project conducted at the University of Bristol between 2001 and 2006, offers a number of inspiring articles and portraits of such research projects and was key for a breakthrough of using creative thinking within this subject field.
Richard Schechner author of the Introduction of Performance studies states that Performance studies examine performances in two categories: Artistic and Cultural Performances. A. Artistic Performance are marked and understood as art. solo-performance, performance art, performance of literature, theatrical storytelling, plays, and performance poetry, This category considers performance as the art form. B. Cultural Performance includes events that occur in everyday life in which a culture values are displayed for their perpetuation: rituals such as parades, religious ceremonies, community festivals, controversial storytelling, and performances of social and professional roles, and individual performances of race, gender, sexuality and class.
Performance Studies as an academic field has multiple origin narratives. On the theatrical and anthropological front, this origin is often regarded as the research collaborations of director Richard Schechner and anthropologist Victor Turner. This origin narrative emphasizes a definition of performance as being "between theatre and anthropology" and often stresses the importance of intercultural performances as an alternative to either traditional proscenium theatre or traditional anthropological fieldwork. Dwight Conquergood developed a branch of performance ethnography that centered the political nature of the practice and advocated for methodological dialogism from the point of encounter to the practices of research reporting. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has contributed an interest in tourist productions and ethnographic showmanship to the field, Judd Case has adapted performance to the study of media and religion,Diana Taylor has brought a hemispheric perspective on Latin American performance and theorized the relationship between the archive and the performance repertoire, while Corinne Kratz developed a mode of performance analysis that emphasizes the role of multimedia communication in performance. Laurie Frederik argues for the importance of ethnographic research and a solid theoretical base in anthropological perspective.
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