Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics
U.S. Consortia on Performance and Politics

Dartmouth College
Harvard University
New York University
Trinity College


The need for a new approach to culture in "Our America"
Founded in 1996 under the joint auspices of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University and the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College, the Consortium was formed to explore the ways that current cultural studies intersects with area studies in relation to the Americas. In 1998, New York University and MIT joined the Consortium. Post World War II demographic and linguistic changes due to migration and political exile have resulted in new conceptions of "America," thereby changing the focus and goals of area studies of the Americas. For example, as Latinos become the largest minority in the U.S., and Puerto Rico remains a U.S. commonwealth, we must acknowledge that "Latin" America extends well North of the Rio Grande. The Consortium on Performance and Politics invites participants to look at "Our America" as a shared "imagined community" that extends from Patagonia to north of Montreal.

Cultural Studies and "American" performance
Cultural Studies offers a post-disciplinary approach that challenges the perspectival limitations of 19th century disciplines that compartmentalize our understanding of geography, economy, government, religion, and the visual and performing arts. Cultural studies instead allows us to understand the complex relations between these facets of social life. The relevance of "performance" as both an object of study and as an analytical lens is especially significant to studies of the Americas because it embraces a wide gamut of cultural practices elided by traditional academic disciplines. Performance is a useful prism for looking both at the aesthetics of everyday life as well as political, religious and cultural practices. "Politics," broadly construed, in turn emphasizes the need to situate and analyze cultural acts in their social, historical, and ideological contexts. By examining performance in its myriad manifestations (as act, as masquerade, as intervention), scholars and artists analyze the ways in which communities or groups use performance to communicate, elicit identification, and forge a sense of community. Studying the rich intersection of performance and politics in the Americas allows scholars and students a better understanding of the many shared histories and practices which defy national borders and constitute "Our America" in the post-Cold War era.

Annual Symposium on Performance and Politics

To explore these issues, the Consortium sponsors an annual symposium that lends intensity and depth to a particularly compelling theme, which changes each year. The symposium features distinguished scholars and artists from the member institutions along with invited speakers, who share ideas in an environment well suited to in-depth discussion and exchange. Symposium history thus far:

1996HarvardPerformance and Politics
1997DartmouthThe Politics of Public Space
1998NYUSpectacles of Religiosity

The next symposium of the Consortia was held in conjunction with the first Hemispheric Institute Seminar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2000.

Budget and Organization

The Consortium on Performance and Politics is run by an Executive Board made up of members from the different participating universities. Each institutional member contributes $2000 annually. Additional expenses for the annual symposium will be covered by the host institution.

For further information, contact: Diana Taylor, Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, 721 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003, 212.998.1620, diana.taylor@nyu.edu.