As a responsive discipline, performance studies changes as its constituent elements evolve. Conspicuous, staged performance develops as movements, styles, critical approaches, and ethical standards unfold in the work of practitioners. Ways of using performance as a mode of inquiry mutate as new methods appear, explode in popularity, and wane. As researchers attend to previously under-represented or emerging forms of everyday behavior in and between cultures, viewing them as performance yields insight about more aspects of our lives and refines our sense of “the everyday,” itself. That all of this change happens along different disciplinary trajectories can compound a sense of uncertainty about the breadth and mission of performance studies, let alone the central tendencies that connect diverse practitioners caravanning across disciplinary borders (Conquergood, “Caravans”).
While disciplinary borders serve their purposes, narratives that naturalize those borders can obscure the variety and depth of mutual influence of interdisciplinary commitments and how these impact practice. As such, disciplinary histories and the work those histories sponsor pose a creative double bind, as identified by Eric Peterson and Kristin Langellier. Academic institutions ask practitioners to create work recognizable by their units and the disciplinary histories those units represent, but also to transcend disciplinary boundaries when preparing their scholarship so that its reception and citation might have international and interdisciplinary reach. This special issue asks a series of questions about the specific situation of this double bind as performance studies practitioners develop and/or take up research and performance created in a communication-centered approach to performance studies:
- What does the historical record of Text and Performance Quarterly (and its previous incarnation as Literature and Performance) suggest are the enduring and emerging themes that distinguish a communication-centered performance studies?
- How have those working in other communication studies sub-disciplines (such as rhetoric, interpersonal communication, gender and communication, communication pedagogy, intercultural communication, environmental communication, etc.) influenced and been influenced by performance studies?
- How do those working outside communication studies understand and utilize the contributions communication-centered approaches make to performance studies more broadly? How do those working with performance theory in other disciplines (history, English, anthropology, etc.) understand and utilize these contributions, especially where and when performance has built on themes, concepts, and methods drawn from these disciplines?
- How does the perpetually promissory character of performance studies’ commitment to social justice (Conquergood, “Performance”) affect research and/as creative practice? When have we best met and most failed those promises? When have we been most rigorous in our self-assessment, and when have we been too willing to rely on our claimed promissory character as an alibi?
- What emerging and enduring theoretical approaches offer the most promise for a vibrant future of meaningful contributions to social, political, and interdisciplinary dialogues? How have these approaches begun to shape, intervene in, and/or repair cultural practices (e.g., the U.S. prison-industrial complex and its racism) and difficult contingencies (e.g., environmental degradation)? How have these approaches complemented, extended and/or critiqued the historical interests of performance studies?
- No single issue could exhaust any one of these questions. I offer them also as signposts for the meta-disciplinary concerns that motivate not only this issue, but also my upcoming editorship of Text and Performance Quarterly. Essays submitted for the special issue but not completing the editorial process by the time the issue must go to press will be considered for future issues.
For instructions about submitting to Text and Performance Quarterly, see the journal’s Instructions for Authors. When submitting an essay via ScholarOne, please identify it as intended for this special issue using the dropdown menu.
Conquergood, Dwight. “Of Caravans and Carnivals: Performance Studies in Motion.” Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis, edited by Patrick Johnson, U of Michigan P, 2013, pp. 26-31.
“Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research.” Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis, edited by Patrick Johnson, U of Michigan P, 2013, pp.32-46.
Peterson, Eric, and Kristin Langellier. “Creative Double Bind in Oral Interpretation.” Western Journal of Speech Communication, vol. 46, no. 3, 1982, pp. 242-52.
- Editor-Elect: Craig Gingrich-Philbrook, Southern Illinois University