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Indiana University Bloomington

Performance and Ethnography

Bringing "performance" and "ethnography" together

The rubric of performance studies allows us to look at a broad range of human activities and practices - from what we eat or wear on any given day, to how we organize public events or present artistic works — by understanding them in both their widest and most intimate sociocultural contexts.

Our approach to investigating communicative practices engages three related perspectives. First, we explore communicative forms and practices as modes of action, ways of accomplishing social ends. Second, we attend to the poetics of communicative practice, the ways in which communicative acts are crafted and communicative skill is displayed. And third, we recognize performances as a special class of events, such as rituals, spectacles, festivals, or fairs, in which a society's symbols and values are publicly displayed, interpreted, and transformed.

We use a variety of methods to ground our insights and analyses in the particularities of the social, cultural, economic, and experiential worlds that enable people to produce the range of forms we study. We place particular emphasis on ethnographic fieldwork and the opportunities it provides for participant-observation, cross-cultural questioning, and self-reflexivity. We encourage students to engage as fully as possible in the social worlds of the communicative forms and practices they study.
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