Performance of the City
Tuesdays @ 9:30am-12:15pm
If you would like to zoom into the class, please reach out to:
[email protected]

Course Description

A founding tenet of the Performance Studies field is the significance of the site where performance takes place – including its metropolitan environment. This course serves to introduce students to the performance culture of a given city (whether New York or one of the other Global sites), and to the ways in which any urban environment is staged by its residents and visitors. The class will take the city itself as its “text,” exploring its history, its significant performance venues, and the public spaces where the population gathers in a collective spectacle of social relations. Readings in urban performance studies will be supplemented by class trips to performances, from the opera to skateboarding ramps to public parades.

Academic Requirements

Students will be required to keep up with class readings, and actively participate in class each week, either through engaging in class discussions, or through active, attentive listening. Students will be required to submit a brief 3-5-page paper midway through the semester, closely analyzing a performance (broadly defined) of your choosing. Students will also be required to complete either: A) a 13-17-page final paper on a topic of choice, or, B) a performance during the course of the semester, with documentation, accompanied by a 5-7-page artist statement and reflection essay discussing the work in relation to materials discussed in class.

Final Grade Breakdown
- Class participation: 20%
- Performance analysis paper: 30%
- Final project (option A or B): 40%
- Final project (week 4 + week 8) checkpoints: 10%

It is strongly encouraged that you carry a journal with you during the course of this semester, designated (or at least, with space designated) for this class (a pocket journal, a notebook, a dedicated page in a notes app, etc.). This will be a place for you to jot down thoughts you have as you move about the city, and it can be a place for you to record your ideas about performances before, during, and/or after observing, experiencing or taking part in them. Students are also strongly encouraged to attend as many performances as possible throughout the semester. There will be a shared calendar created for this class, which we can all use to post about any performance events happening throughout the semester. It is also encouraged to attend museum and gallery exhibitions, such as the Open Room community space housed at Performance Space New York, among any and all others.

Performance Analysis paper:

For the performance analysis paper, you will choose any performance in the city (it could be a formal performance at a venue (dance, theater, music, etc.), a virtual performance based out of New York City that you were present for, an informal performance maybe of a street performer in a park or on the subway, the performance of city architecture, pedestrians at a particular walkway, the police in a particular neighborhood, animals in the park, etc.), something that you have been able to observe and interact with, and discuss in 3-5 pages how this performance changes, enhances, or complicates your understanding of the performance of the city.

Final project:

Option A
For the final paper, you can choose one or multiple performances in/of the city (maybe performances you attended during this semester, or maybe in the past, or maybe a performance you were never able attended but are able to substantially research), and formulate an argument about the performance(s) that relates to the performance of New York City more broadly, as we will discuss in class. In week 4 of the semester, students will be required to identify their object of study for the final paper, and in week 8, students will be required to identify 3 texts from class, and 2 from outside of class, that will be used in the discussion of this performance.

Option B
For the final project, students have the option to plan and execute a performance, located in New York City, and write an accompanying artist statement and reflection essay. You are asked to thoroughly document the process of planning, organizing, setting up, putting on, and taking down the performance, as well as the thematic and conceptual material you are working with in the creation of the performance. In week 4 of the semester, students will be required to present a detailed plan for the final performance, and in week 8, students will be required to turn in a full plan for the performance, and identify 2 texts from class, and 1 from outside of class, that will be used in the discussion of the work.

Course Schedule
Week 1 – 1/25/22


Week 2 – 2/1/22

Vazquez, Alexandra T. “Learning to Live in Miami.” American Quarterly 66, no. 3 (2014): 853-873.
Tinsley, Omise’eke Natasha. “To Transcender Transgender.” In Ezili’s Mirrors: Imagining Black Queer Genders. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.
Moten, Fred. “The Sentimental Avant-Garde,” pp. 31-41. In In The Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Week 3 – 2/8/22

Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace, eds. “First Impressions,” “The Men Who Bought Manhattan,” and “Stuyvesant.” In A History of New York City to 1898. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Folpe, Emily Kies. Excerpts from: It Happened on Washington Square. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
Kauanui, J. Kehaulani. ““A Structure, Not an Event”: Settler Colonialism and Enduring Indigeneity.” Lateral 5 no. 1 (2016). url:

Week 4 – 2/15/22

Lugones, María. “Tactical Strategies of the Streetwalker/Estrategias Tácticas de la Callejera.” In Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003.
da Silva, Denise Ferreira. “On Difference Without Separability.” In 32nd Bienal de São Paulo – Incerteza Viva. Catalogue. Jochen Volz, Júlia Rebouças, eds. São Paulo, Brazil: Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, 2016.
[optional: de Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City.” In The Practice of Everyday Life. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1988.
Nancy, Jean Luc. After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2015.]

Identify the performance object / topic of choice you will be focusing on for your final paper, OR, present a detailed plan for your final performance.

Week 5 – 2/22/22 (remote class this week)
Delany, Samuel R. The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. pp: 197-210, 290-295
Muñoz, José Estaban. “The Future is In the Present: Sexual Avant-Gardes and the Performance of Utopia.” In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2009.
Lepecki, André. “Choreopolice and Choreopolitics: or, the task of the dancer.” TDR: The Drama Review 57, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 13-27.

Week 6 – 3/1/22
Delany, Samuel R. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. New York, NY: New York University Press, 1999. pp: 123-165

Hartman, Saidiya. “The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner.” In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Soffer, Jonathan. “A New Spatial Order: Gentrification, the Parks, Times Square.” In Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Week 7 – 3/8/22

Halle, David, and Elisabeth Tiso. “Developing New York’s Far West Side: Contemporary Art, the High Line, Megaprojects, and Urban Growth.” In New York’s New Edge: Contemporary Art, the High Line, and Urban Megaprojects on the Far West Side. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Kolarevic, Branko, and Ali Malkawi. “Towards the Performative in Architecture.” In Performative Architecture: Beyond Instrumentality. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005.
Corner, James. “Landscape Urbanism.” In Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990-2010, ed. Alison Bick. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014.
Walker, Kara. “A Subtlety.”

Performance analysis paper is due at 11:59pm

3/15/22 - no class, Spring Break
Week 8 – 3/22/22
Devlin, Ryan Thomas. “Street Vending and the Politics of Space in New York City.” In Street Vending in the Neoliberal City: A Global Perspective on the Practices and Policies of a Marginalized Economy. Eds. Kristina Graaff and Noa Ha. New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2015.
Freeman, Joshua B. “Conclusion: How Labor Shaped New York and New York Shaped Labor.” In City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2019.
Harris, Gregory. “Sanctuary: Exploring Artist’s Work Spaces in Brooklyn.” Dweller Forever Blog, March 10th, 2021.

Identify 3 texts from the course syllabus, and 2 from outside, that you will be engaging with primarily for your final paper.
Present the full plan for your final performance, including 2 text from the course syllabus, and 1 text from outside that you will be referencing in your artist statement.

Week 9 – 3/29/22

Westerman, Jonah. “Museum of Modern Art, New York,” and, “Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.” In Histories of Performance Documentation: Museum, Artistic, and Scholarly Practices. Eds. Gabriella Giannachi, and Jonah Westerman. London, UK: Routledge, 2017.
Meyers, Fred. “The Complicity of Cultural Production: The Contingencies of Performance in Globalizing Museum Practices.” In Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Eds. Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja, and Thomas Ybarra-Frausto. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.
D’Souza, Aruna. “Setting the Stage,” and “Open Casket, Whitney Biennial, 2017.” In Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts. New York, NY: Badlands Unlimited, 2018.

Week 10 – 4/5/22

Baraka, Amiri. “Apple Cores #1” through “Apple Cores #5 – The Burton Greene Affair.” In Black Music. Brooklyn, NY: Akashic Books, 2010.
Tanenbaum, Susie J. “The Partners: Subway Musicians and Their Audiences.” In Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subways of New York. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.
Lawrence, Tim. “Preface,” “Subterranean Dance,” and “The Sound of a Transcendent Future.” In Life and Death on the New York Dancefloor: 1980-1983. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Week 11 – 4/12/22 guest speaker Isabelle Saldaña

O’Grady, Lorraine. “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1981),” “Statement for Moira Roth re: Art Is…, 1983 (2007),” “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and Feminism (2007),” “The Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Project, 1980-1983 (2018).” In Writing in Space, 1973-2019. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020.

Lorraine O’Grady as Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, photos, 3

Week 12 – 4/19/22 guest speaker Jameel Mohammed

Moon, Christina H. Labor and Creativity in New York’s Global Fashion Industry. New York, NY: Routledge, 2020. (Introduction + Chapter 1)

Club Kids on Geraldo, 1992. Ru Paul, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag” (20:29).

[optional: Buckley, Cheryl, and Hazel Clark. “Street Walking.” In Fashion and Everyday Life: London and New York. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017. ]

Week 13 – 4/26/22

Taylor, Diana. “Lost in the Field of Vision: Witnessing September 11.” In The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.
Class presentations

Week 14 – 5/3/22

Class presentations continued

Final papers due - Tuesday, 5/10/22 @11:59pm

Course Syllabus