Performance Studies DE


Designated Emphasis
DE in Performance and Practice

The DE in Studies in Performance and Practice offers Ph.D. students who want to focus on process, methods for approaching practice, or procedures for analyzing it from experiment, ways of thinking about and articulating performance as embodied knowledge.

Faculty Contact: Cristiana Giordano (

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. 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 technocultural studies, film studies, environmental studies and many other areas.

The goals of the Designated Emphasis are

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

to develop the students’ capacity for interdisciplinary thinking through practical application, critical analysis and theory.


The required courses are PFS 200, one of PFS 265a-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.

More About DEs and Affliated Departments Here


Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Performance Studies is a four to five year program. In the first two years of study, students develop an understanding of performance by drawing from a range of regular course offerings in the field to identify, explore, and define a field or fields of research. Students are required to complete four core courses out of nine. Each individual program is then built from seminar and/or practice as research courses, as well as independent or group studies.

Core Courses
PFS200: Methods, Materials and Performance Research

(4) Seminar–3 hours; term paper. Essential research tools in theatre and related fields; bibliographies, primary sources; methods of evaluating and presenting evidence; delineating research areas in the field; current debates; researching, shaping and presenting oral and written paper.

PFS265a: Modes of Production, Prof Lynette Hunter

Introduces students to the literature of performance production in a variety of media: theatre, dance, film, video, computer-based, looking at cultural, aesthetic, rhetorical and political theory. May be repeated.

PFS265a/CST 295: Ghosts of the Machine, Prof Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli

PFS265b: Signification and the Body, Prof Maxine Craig

Introduces students to analysis of the body in performance, drawing on theoretical models from several fields. Material will vary depending on instructor but examples might include body mechanics, the body and social behavior, body movement and theories of rhetoric, historical theories of body and soul. May be repeated.

PFS265b/ANT 210: Cyborg Writing, Prof Joe Dumit

PFS265c: Performance and Society, Prof Larry Bogad.

Introduces students to the role of performance (broadly defined), in everyday life, sociopolitical negotiation, identity, social movements, the media, the environment, the state, transnational and global sites. Material will differ depending on instructor, but topics might include presidential elections, performative aspects of medicine and law, religious ritual, ecological activism, among others. May be repeated.

PFS265c/REL 230B, Prof Archana Venkatesen.

Comparative, interpretive study of the treatment of religion: language, rhetoric, and performance (postcolonial studies)

PFS265d: Theory of Performance Studies, Prof Jon Rossini.

Performance Studies is a new discipline, growing out of several others including history and analysis of text within the fields of theatre and dance, anthropology and ethnology, linguistics, sociology, cultural and technological studies. There is a very substantial field of theory, history and criticism that has developed, which is integral to the understanding and development of performance research generally. Depending on the instructor the topics may vary, but could include history from Stanislavski to Grotowski, the impact of poststructural theory on performance, and/or ethical responsibility in performance. May be repeated.

PFS265d: TBA

Students are required to complete a minimum of 60 units before taking the qualifying examination.

Language and Unit Requirements

All students are required to have a good reading knowledge of a language other than English; ideally, this language should be one relevant to the field of dissertation research. This requirement should be passed by the end of the second year of study, and must be passed before the student will be approved to take qualifying examination. Students passing the language requirement with course work taken at another institution must demonstrate that this course work is sufficiently recent to demonstrate a useful working knowledge of the language. No more than 12 units may be taken below the graduate level unless specifically approved by the PhD graduate program adviser.

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