Performance Studies DE


Designated Emphasis
in Studies in Performance and Practice


The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Studies in Performance and Practice offers PhD students a methodology for approaching and analyzing practice through procedure and experiment. The DE enables students to choose specific areas of study as a means of articulating performance as embodied knowledge. Despite its roots in theatre, the UC Davis Performance Studies graduate group is influenced by a wide variety of intersecting disciplines and areas of study. For example, Performance Studies students who are interested in Science and Technology perspectives as a means of finding and exploring embodied and other forms of knowledge may take participating courses in the department of Science and Technology as their DE. In other words, a Designated Emphasis is a specialization that might include a new method of inquiry or an important field of application which is related to two or more existing Ph.D. programs.



Performance Studies consists of a critical way of thinking about practices of communication, from film and stage performance, to sports, religion, and everyday behavior, among many other areas. As an academic discipline it has developed new ways of knowing and new knowledge about the process of these activities rather than the end products. The field of Performance Studies is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative, and interacts closely with new media, among many other things. Its roots lie in critical philosophy that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, and which responded to increasingly disembodied ways of thinking about human behavior. By focusing on process, situated learning, embodied knowledge, and the interaction and interplay of theory and practice, performance studies has defined ways of looking at, interpreting, and interacting with actual human agents and their mediation.

Critical approaches in the field of Performance Studies include methods developed in interaction with anthropology and ethnography, rhetoric and the history of language, communication and the media, philosophy and critical theory, cultural and techno-cultural studies, film studies, environmental studies and many other areas.



  • to develop students’ capacity for interdisciplinary thinking through practical application, critical analysis and theory
  • to provide graduate students with a set of strategies for thinking about how performance theory and practice can interact
  • to encourage students to develop ways of recognizing and acting upon embodied knowledge
  • to train students to analyze and evaluate craft and production that is in process and may or may not produce identifiable and conventionally duplicatable end products



The required courses are PFS 200, one of PFS 265A, B, C, or D, and at least two other courses given by faculty who are affiliated with the Designated Emphasis.



Many students involved in courses that look at material that is “in process” will produce conventionally assessable work in formats appropriate to the different disciplinary areas in which they take a course (for example: the essay). At the same time, some work will also take place in practical projects or the production of portfolio work.



D.E. in African American and African Studies

The African American Studies Research Cluster engages in an exploration of the ways in which the discipline of African American Studies is central to many of the current discourses concerning globalization, contemporary American religion, politics, post-colonial theory, and literary criticism. As a group, we investigate how the African American experience has been and continues to be central to U.S. history, politics, culture, and even international relations. Our areas of study include not only the complexities of what has recently been called the “racial stalemate” in America, but also the vital contributions of African American expressive culture, including music, dance, religion, literary, and popular cultural styles. The research cluster allows faculty and graduate students to jointly develop cutting-edge research questions and inquiry into some of the most vital and vexing questions of our American history and contemporary times.

The Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies will increase students’ understanding of the breadth of past and present research in the subject areas of African American and African Studies. It will also provide the institutional means by which students and faculty already working on areas of inquiry touching upon African American and African Studies can be channeled or concentrated together for interaction and collaboration extending beyond their respective regional homes across the UC Davis campus.


D.E. in Critical Theory

The DE in Critical Theory at UC Davis provides doctoral students a double opportunity: to participate in interdisciplinary seminars focusing on the rich tradition of critical thought, both ancient and modern; and to add a formal credential in critical theory to their degrees. Our faculty, drawn from various affiliated programs in the humanities and social sciences, offer a wide range of expertise across multiple historical periods and theoretical approaches. Our seminars bring together students and faculty from across this broad disciplinary spectrum, providing a rare opportunity to compare perspectives, and to interrogate the fundamental axioms and principles of social, political and cultural practice.

We are united by no single set of presuppositions but, rather, by a shared commitment to close reading, rigorous thinking and the pursuit of what Marx famously calls “a ruthless critique of everything that exists.” We accordingly understand critical theory not as a static canon, nor as a merely academic exercise, but as a robust, ongoing engagement with texts, institutions, the polis, and the world.


D.E. in Feminist Theory and Research

The Women and Gender Studies Program at UC Davis offers a Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research. Currently graduate students in the following fourteen affiliated Ph.D. programs are eligible to participate: Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Education, English, French, German, Geography, History, Native American Studies, Performance Studies, Psychology, Sociology, and Spanish.

The Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research affords graduate students in affiliated programs the opportunity to augment their Ph.D. in a given discipline with a specialization in Feminist Theory and Research. Typically a doctoral student in good standing may seek admission to the Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research and enroll in Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research courses. Those students in affiliated Ph.D. programs who complete the requirements of the Designated Emphasis will have this noted on their transcripts and their Ph.D. diploma will note the Ph.D. in X with Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research.

Feminist theory and research examines the complex ways in which gender always forged in relation to race, class, sexual, and national identities has organized language, identities, traditions of knowledge, methodologies, social relations, organizations, economic systems, and every facet of culture. In making gender a central category of analysis, feminist scholarship engages such questions as: the relationship between language and institutions, the nature of social power and historical agency, heteronormativity, the relationship between gender and nation, alternative sexualities, and gender and representation.

Feminist scholarship tends by nature to be interdisciplinary. Indeed it is feminist scholars who laid some of the groundwork for such interdisciplinary formations as the new ethnography, new historicism, and cultural studies.

Feminist theory and research are among the most exciting and powerful forces in academic research and intellectual life today. Students with the D.E. demonstrate additional training that is attractive to employers inside and outside of the academy.


D.E. in Native American Studies

The Native American Studies Department at UC Davis offers a Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies (DENAS). Currently graduate students in Comparative Literature; Psychology; Spanish; Performance Studies; History; Sociology; and Anthropology can enroll in the DENAS. If you are interested in being admitted to the Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies, but your graduate program/department is not affiliated, see the DENAS Chair.

The Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies affords graduate students in affiliated programs the opportunity to supplement their Ph.D. in a given discipline with a specialization in Native American Studies. A doctoral student in good standing may seek admission to the DE in Native American Studies. Students in affiliated Ph.D. programs who complete the requirements of the DE will have this noted on their transcripts and their Ph.D. diploma will note the ÒPh.D. in ____ with Emphasis in Native American Studies.

At UC Davis, the Native American Studies Department focuses hemispherically upon the indigenous peoples of the Americans, that is, upon the peoples, nations, tribes, and communities whose ancestors have lived in North, Central and South America from earliest times. Native American Studies is interdisciplinary in its scholarly approach to the world of American Indian peoples, offering a comprehensive and comparative perspective. This unique hemispheric approach includes attention to the increasing dislocation and diaspora of indigenous people throughout the Americas, and calls upon the authority of Native intelligence (Native voices, Native texts) in all its forms and manifestations to address the issues that concern Native peoples, including the creative strategies for continuance they have developed over the centuries.


D.E. in Religious Studies

The Designated Emphasis in the Study of Religion will allow students to focus their studies on religion and society. Its thematic emphases and curricular structure are closely aligned with those of the Graduate Group in the Study of Religion at UC Davis. Much like the Graduate Group, a DE in the Study of Religion will help graduate students specialize in some aspect of the study of religion in a way not currently available through other existing Ph.D. programs. Some programs do offer training in religious traditions from specific disciplinary perspectives; these include history, English, Native American Studies, anthropology, and sociology. Unlike these programs, however, the DE in the Study of Religion provides graduate students with an interdisciplinary understanding of how religion in general has been conceptualized and studied historically and how these understandings continue to inform basic categories of thought, behavior and identity across the world and especially in the West. Rather than approaching religion as a fixed entity that informs change in other more dynamic fields (e.g. literature, culture, society, behavior), the DE will help students think about the study of religion as historically variable, contextualized, and itself constitutive of the subject of inquiry.


D.E. in Science and Technology Studies

The Designated Emphasis in Science & Technology Studies offers graduate students in PhD programs the opportunity to expand their studies with a specialization in the methods and theoretical approaches of STS. Any PhD student in good standing is eligible to apply to the designated emphasis and enroll in its courses. Those students whose topic of research includes a focus on the complex interactions among science, technology and society will greatly benefit from the program. Upon completion of the requirements for the DE, students will have this accomplishment noted on their transcripts, and their diploma will indicate a PhD with Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies.

Science and Technology Studies addresses the complexity of the practices of science in laboratories, the pervasive interactions of cultures, societies, governments, social movements, industries, environments and legal regimes with innovations in science and technology, and the increasing demand to study these interactions in an integrated manner. Doctoral students in the STS DE will engage in a sustained analysis of the practices of scientists and engineers and the ways in which the development and production of facts and technologies within the domain of science is a fundamentally social phenomenon. Further, they will explore the inseparability of these social aspects of scientific practice from the ‘impacts’ of science and technology in the broader cultural and political landscape.

The STS DE curriculum is flexible with courses offered across many disciplines. Students are able to choose classes that will widen their range of academic knowledge and improve their research skills, giving them the tools to be successful interdisciplinary scholars. DE students will also benefit from the thriving community of STS scholars on campus, regular STS speaker series, and a range of STS events including the annual Summer Retreat, which draws faculty and grad participants from across the ten UC campuses.


D.E. in Writing, Rhetoric and Composition

The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies (WRaCS) offers PhD students in affiliated programs the opportunity to prepare for leadership roles in writing and rhetoric research, teaching, and program administration.  Drawing on recent work in cultural studies and rhetoric, the WRaCS DE is a program where students can explore the intersections of theory and practice and consider how multimodal forms of composition (visual, audio, textual/linguistic, and gestural/bodily) are shaping performance.  The study of how social, technological, and cognitive factors impact composing processes is vital for understanding how writers, designers, directors, and others work in traditional spaces as well as in emerging digital environments.

PhD graduates in affiliated programs will find that a Designated Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies opens up positions at universities, colleges, and community colleges, research foundations, and international corporations that are looking for expertise in writing and rhetoric.  This designated emphasis provides doctoral students with both theoretical and practical knowledge focused on pedagogy, program administration and research.  Graduate students in this DE are encouraged to make connections between writing and performances found in diverse spaces including the stage, digital and online environments, schools, workplaces, galleries and other sites of cultural work.

View all UCD Arts departments and programs

Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

Cinema and Digital Media

Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

and Dance

Melody Chiang

Performance Studies

Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang


Melody Chiang

UC Davis Arts