Performance and Politics in the Global South

Rüstem Ertug Altinay
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2019S, Lecture and Discussion (VOD), 2.0 semester hours, course number S02611


How can we study performance to understand the making of the Global South and the dynamics of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism that sustain the global power hierarchies that resulted in this geographical conception? In this course, we will explore this question in the light of canonical texts and emerging voices on the politics of performance in the Global South and its diasporas.

The transdisciplinary field of performance studies began to develop in the 1960s at the intersection of theater, anthropology, and philosophy of language. Using performance as a lens to study diverse realms of society, scholars in the field challenge the illusion of “naturalness” that often defines our conceptions of everyday life. Instead, the performance studies paradigm allows us to explore how social order is scripted and invented, and how social and political categories and identities become normalized through continuous repetition. As such, the concepts of performance and performativity can provide crucial insights into the formation of the Global South and its diasporas.

In this course, rather than taking “the Global South” as given, we will study it as a dynamic category of analysis. “The Global South” emerged as a term in the writings of socialist intellectuals in the late 1960s, primarily as an alternative to “the Third World.” While the term and the geographical conception it implies had some presence in mainstream politics during the Cold War, it has been primarily in the last fifteen years that the North/South divide has become a popular way of understanding global inequality and exploitation. As such, the Global South is a concept deeply embedded in geopolitics, and the physical and cultural borders defining the region have been the subject of constant negotiation. We will use performativity and performance as a lens to examine these negotiations as well as their ramifications on the politics of subjectivity and belonging. Our emphasis on performance will help us develop a critical understanding of the politics of everyday life as well as the intertwined operations of power on the global and individual level.

Class meetings will be composed of a combination of lecture, discussion, critical reading and embodied learning workshops, and in-class viewings. We will also host guest speakers and attend live performances in Vienna.


Course Objectives:

In this course, students will:

1) gain familiarity with the key works and emerging debates on performance and politics in the Global South and its diasporas, and develop the ability to engage with this literature in independent projects for this class and future research.

2) develop a critical understanding of the notion of “Global South,” and the complex intellectual, political, and ethical implications of the term.

3) become acquainted with the methods and theories of performance studies.

4) learn how the study of performance can provide vital insights into global politics as well as the ramifications of global politics on everyday life.

5) develop the ability to analyze everyday and artistic performances, and write about them critically.

6) examine the relationship between theory and practice, and how this relationship unfolds in the context of performance and politics in the Global South.

7) further their critical thinking, argumentation, reading, and writing skills with the aid of in-class exercises and workshops as well as independent projects.


04/03: Defining Our Terms: Performance and the Global South

  • Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction, 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013. pp. 28-51 and 123-129.
  • Critical Reading Workshop: What Is an Argument?

With rare exceptions, the purpose of academic writing is to make an argument: to make a claim about a subject and supporting it with evidence. But how can you find the main argument of a text and evaluate it? We will devote part of Week 1 to a critical reading workshop. We will read short texts on the Global South, first in groups and later individually. You will find the main argument of each text, demonstrate how it is supported, and discuss them in relation to one another.


08/03: Performativity and Subjection

  • Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction, 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013. pp. 130-169.
  • Althusser, Louis. Excerpt from “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes towards an Investigation,” in Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1971. pp. 170-186.

In-class viewing and discussion:

  • Inside the Weird World of an Islamic “Feminist” Cult, dir. Meher Ahmad, Vice, 2016.


12/03: Race, Performance, and Performativity

  • Fanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness,” in The Post-colonial Studies Reader, eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995. pp. 323-326.
  • Muñoz, José Esteban. “Introduction: Performing Disidentifications” in Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. pp. 1-34.


In-class viewing and discussion:

  • The Couple in the Cage: a Guatinaui Odyssey, dir. Paula Heredia and Coco Fusco. 1993.
  • Hello Kitty by Calamity Chang, 2011.
  • My Calling Card by Adrian Piper, 1986.


14/03: Archives and Adaptations

  • Loomba, Ania. “Shakespeare and the Possibilities of Postcolonial Performance,” in A Companion to Shakespeare and Performance, eds. Barbara Hodgdon and W. B. Worthen. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. pp. 121-137.
  • Taylor, Diana. “Acts of Transfer,” in The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. pp. 16-32.

In-class viewing and discussion:

  • The Atlas Group Archive, available at:
  • Excerpts from Nora/Nure, adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, dir. Jale Karabekir. Theater Painted Bird, 2009.

Assignment 1 due.

25/03: (Post)Colonial Performance and the Body

  • Bhahba, Homi K. “Of Mimicry and Man,” in The Performance Studies Reader, ed. Henry Bial. London and New York: Routledge, 2007. pp. 337-344.
  • Gilbert, Helen. “Dance, Movement and Resistance Politics,” in The Post-colonial Studies Reader, eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995. pp. 341-345.
  • Kanneh, Kadiatu. “Feminism and the Colonial Body,” in The Post-colonial Studies Reader, eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995. pp. 346-348.
  • Krus, Patricia. “Postcolonial Performance,” Ariel 38(1) (2007): 121-127.

In-class viewing and discussion:

  • Excerpts from Le dernier caravansérail (Odyssées) by Ariane Mnouchkine, dir. Ariane Mnouchkine. Perf. Le Théâtre du Soleil. La Cartoucherie de Vincennes, 2003-2005.


12/04: (Post)Migrant Performance

  • Çağlar, Ayşe. “Still ‘Migrants’ After All Those Years: Foundational Mobilities, Temporal Frames and Emplacement of Migrants,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (2016): 952-969.
  • Sharifi, Azadeh. “‘Wir wollten ein Zeichen setzen‘: Performance and Protest by Minorities in German Theatre,” Performance Paradigm 14 (2018): 45-63.
  • Tinius, Jonas. “Authenticity and Otherness: Reflecting Statelessness in German Postmigrant Theatre,” Critical Stages 14 (December 2016). Available at:

Assignment 2 due.


29/04: Theater of the Oppressed

  • Boal, Augusto. Theater of the Oppressed, trans. Charles A. And Maria-Odilia Leal McBride and Emily Fryer. London: Pluto Press, 2008. pp. 95-135.
  • Performance Workshop:

Incorporating diverse techniques that are accessible to non-actors, Theater of the Oppressed has emerged as one of the most popular and powerful forms of political theater in the twentieth-century. This workshop will introduce participants to the politics and techniques of Theater of the Oppressed. The workshop is accessible to all participants, regardless of ability or experience. Please wear workout clothes or loose, comfortable clothing.

Please e-mail me your topics for final projects before this day.

Examination Modalities


Assignment 1                                            10%

Assignment 2                                            20%

Assignment 3                                            50%

Participation                                             20%

Key Words

Global South, migration, race, postcolonial theory, adaptation, performance, cultural politics


04 March 2019, 13:45–17:00
08 March 2019, 13:45–17:00
12 March 2019, 11:00–13:30
14 March 2019, 14:30–18:00
25 March 2019, 14:30–18:00
12 April 2019, 14:30–18:00
29 April 2019, 10:15–18:00
20 September 2019, 23:00–23:59, "Deadline 1 for final projects" (examination)
10 November 2019, 23:00–23:59, "Deadline 2 for final projects" (examination)

Course Enrolment

From 01 February 2019, 17:33 to 31 March 2019, 17:33
Via online registration

co-registration: possible (3.0 ECTS)

Individual courses: possible (3.0 ECTS)