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As a discipline for teaching and learning, performance studies is a broad field encompassing not only the performing arts (including theatre, dance, music, film, and multimedia), but also: the social and aesthetic practices of everyday life; sacred and secular rituals; the performative dimensions of gender, sexuality, and other identity categories; the actors, audiences, and scripts mobilized within different political systems, legal institutions, and social movements; the mechanics and consequences of intercultural exchange and communication; even engineering efficiencies within financial markets, science and technology, and the human body. In a world where we routinely talk about “playing a role” professionally, where new media continue to alter the relationships between audience and event, and where we are bombarded with accounts of how well the global economy is or isn't performing, performance studies has emerged as an important critical paradigm through which to understand a repertoire of embodied, aesthetic, and historical acts—and their consequences.
In addition to critical discovery, performance studies promotes learning through creative questioning and performative inquiry, which is to say through making and doing as well as observing and interpreting. As a result, performance studies is interdisciplinary in terms of both its objects of study and its ways of knowing. In performance studies courses, for example, students will gain understanding of a particular literary text not just by analyzing its content and form, but also by dramatizing the relationship between the two; or they will probe gender stereotypes in the media by filming their own PSA on the subject; or they will supplement their ethnography of different urban neighbourhoods with a travel diary documenting their movements between them; or they will investigate how the effects of performances may shift as political/cultural contexts change across time and space; or they will use their own performance practice in dance to explore the artist body’s relationship to technology, or cultural policy, or commercial value.
At Simon Fraser University, students can study performance studies as part of a BA through the School for the Contemporary Arts, through a new interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate program, and across a range of other undergraduate and graduate courses offered by different departments, units, and programs. Click the tabs to the left to explore.