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Performing Culture


This course takes up questions of cultural performance and how it intersects with the poetics and politics of ritual, heritage, and identity in Latin American, Latino/a, and indigenous contexts. Drawing upon a rich set of ethnographic examples, we will examine expressive culture in a variety of forms, including media, theatre, dance, music, storytelling, and art. In cultivating an anthropological sensibility of how culture is acted, enacted, and embodied, we will delve into topics such as authenticity, representation, ethnicity, globalization, migration, and social change. Course readings will thus challenge us to grapple with a range of issues central to contemporary anthropological understandings of aesthetic practice and experience. We will look at topics such as the negotiation of Bolivian national and indigenous identities through musical performance, the innovative use of video technology by Kayapó to stake territorial claims in Brazil, and the new ways in which “folkloric” dance is employed by transborder Maya migrant communities as a form of resistance and empowerment. For their conference work, students will have the opportunity to conduct original ethnographic fieldwork on the topic of cultural performance.