Spring 2020 - CA 826 G100

New Approaches in Performance Studies (4)

Class Number: 8866

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    GCA 4390, GOLDCORP

  • Instructor:

    Peter Dickinson
    1 778 782-9912
    Office: GC 3510
    Office Hours: By appointment



This course is an elective in the MA program. It traces the interdisciplinary origins of performance studies and brings its concepts and methods to bear on dance, music and sound arts, theatre and performance arts, and media performance while introducing cross-disciplinary ideas from emergent areas such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and gaming, for example. Course assignments will involve case studies as forerunners for further research. Students with credit for FPA 826 may not take this course for further credit.


A hallmark of twenty-first century living is that more than half of the world’s population now resides in cities. As sites of cultural and economic exchange, political contestation and social action, metropolitan centres thus become critical nodes through which to understand how discourses of placemaking (both instrumentalist and resistant) circulate locally and globally. Drawing from a wide range of performance studies theorists, in this course we will examine such urban flows through the lens of performance. From signature architecture to highly choreographed outdoor spectacles, from public art biennales to destination restaurants, performance has become a theatrical adjunct of global civic branding, used to attract tourists, investors, and high-income residents. At the same time, the performativity of these performances—what they instantiate and reproduce over time—risks overwriting earlier and more historically sedimented performances of place, in part by feeding gentrification and contributing to a deepening divide between the 1% and everyone else. This is paradigmatically the case in a city like Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and also the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. We will thus ground (quite literally) our initial discussions of Vancouver as a performing city by carrying out a series of practice-based walking exercises that draw on methods of sensory ethnography and Indigenous “place-thought.” Thereafter, we will turn our attention to a discussion of other transnational urban performances, complementing our theoretical readings with relevant case studies (e.g., the franchising of art museums like the Guggenheim and the Louvre in Bilbao and Abu Dhabi; performances of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in war- and flood-ravaged Sarajevo and New Orleans; how different cites play themselves—or stand in for others—on screen; etc.). Students will also be given the opportunity to develop a final project (either independently or collaboratively) that may address the concerns of the course through a specific site and/or object of study that is relevant to their research, and that may involve a range of knowledge outcomes, including writing, performance, visual documentation, installation, etc.


  • Attendance and active participation 15%
  • Walking diary 15%
  • Seminar reading summary and discussion facilitation 15%
  • Project proposal 15%
  • Final project and paper 40%



Weekly readings will be posted to Canvas as pdf articles.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html