Spring 2019 - SA 474 E100

Cultures, Politics, Performance: Conversations with Performance Studies (A) (4)

Class Number: 3075

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Thu, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Minimum 72 units including SA 101 or SA 201W.



Anthropological studies of performance as theoretical/methodological framework for analyzing social relations and power in selected historical/cultural contexts. Subjects may include theories of performance and performativity; creativity and experience; cultural performance; ritual; performance as political resistance; performance and everyday life. Ethnographic and historical accounts focused on performance in colonial/neocolonial/postcolonial processes will constitute substantive course content.


Performance, as an object of study and a method of critical research and analysis, has increasingly become a way to bridge scholarly inquiry across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Among other things, this has meant paying attention to how the body and the senses produce knowledge, and ways of being in the world. In this practice-based course, co-taught by performance studies scholars in Anthropology and English/Contemporary Arts, we will explore the theoretical and methodological intersections among performance studies and two emerging fields in anthropology: multisensory ethnography which explores relationships between embodied sensory experience and historical, cultural, and political contexts; and multimodal ethnography, which engages media in conducting fieldwork, analyzing and communicating ethnographic work.

As both performance studies and ethnography speak meaningfully to our relationships to place, and how we embody and are entangled with different material spaces, we will take as our primary objects of study our immediate sensory environments. How do we engage with questions of relationships to place, acknowledging that we are situated on unceded Indigenous territories?  How do the neighbourhoods we live and play in, or the institutions we work at, perform on and for us? And how do we perform in and with them? How might paying ethnographic attention to the everyday micro-performances of our city—the “sensescapes” of sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch we experience on the way to an appointment, for example—speak otherwise to official narratives of urban branding, or help to reveal sedimented layers of history and belonging? What sensoria may be excluded from the conventional western scheme of five senses, hierarchically ordered?  We will take up these concerns by engaging with a range of sensory studies (texts, films, material archives) exemplary of researchers’ sensuous and often practice-based entanglements with the multiple and overlapping worlds they embody, including the scholarly, the artistic, the activist, and the community-engaged. We will also use walking/ambling as a central course methodology. To this end, students will be asked to engage in a series of walking/ambling exercises; to keep a multimedia journal recording field notes from their walks/ambles (as well as other assigned tasks); and to complete a final trans-medial project that may combine writing, video, sound, performance, etc., and that applies the embodied research of their walks to ideas of sense- and place-making.  In-class instruction on how to work ethnographically across different media will be part of the syllabus, and will include visual design, audio/podcasting, and Smartphone video making.


  • Multimodal ethnography diary exercises 10-20*%
  • Seminar reading summary and discussion facilitation 10-20*%
  • Project proposal presentation, abstract, and schedule of work 20%
  • Final project 50%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.

*Students may choose their desired weighting for these two assignments.



Required and recommended readings will be made available on Canvas as online pdfs.

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