Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics is a collaborative, multilingual, and interdisciplinary consortium of institutions, artists, scholars, and activists throughout the Americas. Working at the intersection of scholarship, artistic expression, and politics, the organization explores embodied practice—performance—as a vehicle for the creation of new meaning and the transmission of cultural values, memory, and identity. Anchored in its geographical focus on the Americas (thus “hemispheric”) and in its three working languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese), the Institute seeks to create spaces and opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration and interdisciplinary innovation among researchers and practitioners interested in the relationship between performance, politics and social life in the hemisphere.
While its administration is housed at New York University, the Hemispheric Institute is comprised by over twenty-five member universities and cultural institutions throughout the Americas. Institute initiatives include courses, work groups, conference-festivals (Encuentros), a digital video library (HIDVL), archives, an online scholarly journal (e-misférica), a trilingual website, an Emerging Performers Program in New York City, and public online forums.
In 2008, the Institute inaugurated the Centro Hemisférico, a collaborative research center and performance space in Chiapas, Mexico, in partnership with FOMMA (a Mayan women's theatre collective) as well as its Hemispheric New York initiative, a program of public events that features artistic and scholarly work produced in New York City.
The Hemispheric Institute
aims to provide a model for academic study that is specially suited to
embodied performance practices in the Americas. The interdisciplinary
focus on performance avoids some of the ethnocentric limitations inherent
in traditional theatre and dance studies, enabling students to focus on
expressive forms that fall outside the bounds of European performance
genres. The Institute hopes not only to look beyond these disciplinary
limits which a long colonial history has imposed, but to illuminate the
ways in which much theatre, dance, and music in the Americas has been
tied from the outset to the history of colonialism itself. Studying cultural
and political performances across the Americas offers scholars and artists
a better understanding of the many shared histories and practices in the
Americas that defy national borders.
The Hemispheric Institute
is funded by generous grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations,
and receives administrative and physical support from the Department
of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts and the Graduate
School of Arts and Sciences at New York University in New York City. The
Institute is also involved in active partnerships with the Office of the
Dean of Libraries, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer of Information
Technology Services, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Activities
at New York University.
The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics was conceived in 1998 by Professors Diana Taylor (NYU), Zeca Ligiéro (Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Javier Serna (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico) and Luis Peirano (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), in order to expand methodologies for analyzing embodied practice and to energize research about shared practices in the Americas. Housed within the Department of Performance Studies in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, in 1998 the Institute received an initial planning grant from the Ford Foundation. Shortly thereafter, it offered its first course (“The Conquest,” 1999) and hosted its first Encuentro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2000).
The initial impetus was to create a consortium of institutions that would house scholars interested in the intersection of performance and politics in the Americas, and to build collections of scholarly and artistic materials for research and teaching. Participants worked together to share materials and methodologies, and to build technological capacity at partner institutions to enable collaborative teaching across borders. As the initial efforts took shape, H.I. began to develop an archive of research materials and to train graduate students in a multilingual, collaborative environment. These graduate students also developed expertise in the information technologies that would enormously expand their abilities for collaborative knowledge production and for communicating their findings to hemispheric audiences.
Since its inception, the Institute has developed expanding networks throughout the Americas. Beginning with the first Encuentro in Rio de Janeiro in 2000, Encuentros have been held in Monterrey, Mexico, Lima, Peru, New York City, Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in partnership with institutions such as Centro Cultural Recoleta, Uni-Rio, and UFMG, to name only a few. These conference/festivals have evolved into large-scale biannual events with close to 500 participants from across the Americas. The 2009 Encuentro will take place at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá. The Institute currently has fifteen member universities in the United States and has developed partnerships with important New York organizations like El Museo del Barrio, The Culture Project, La MaMa, and The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD). Our trilingual online journal, e-misférica, has now published nine issues, featuring original work on topics including Performance and the Law, Aboriginal Performance, Sexualities in the Americas, Affect and Performance, and Body Politics/Corpografías, enabling collaborative and comparative perspectives on performance and politics throughout the hemisphere. In 2008, H.I. inaugurated Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA, its first regional research and cultural center, located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA is collaboration with la Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya, a Mayan women's theater collective and NGO, and is made possible by support from NYU and the Ford Foundation.
During this time, the Institute has also built a strong administrative base at NYU. Initially a project housed in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, the Institute now benefits from the support and collaboration of several schools within NYU, including the College of Arts and Sciences and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, with participating faculty and students from Anthropology, Performance Studies, Art, Visual Studies, Cinema Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. In 2007 the Institute received an endowment from the Ford Foundation and became a University-wide initiative administratively located within the Office of the Provost.
In recent years, the Hemispheric Institute has also diversified its sources of support. Most important has been the grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Institute and New York University Libraries for the creation of the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL), the world's first permanent video collection of performance practices in the Americas. Along with the capacity for state-of-the-art digitization, this archive now includes over five hundred hours of digital video and trilingual supporting materials that will be available to scholars, artists, and interested audiences through its website. With support of The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Institute has recently launched the Hemispheric New York initiative. Through public performances and workshops, an emerging performers program (EMERGENYC), and collaboration with local cultural institutions, Hemispheric New York seeks to highlight the hemispheric encounters and the artistic vitality that make New York City the Americas’ greatest cultural crossroads.
The programs and events of the Hemispheric Institute are open to all scholars, artists, activists and interested citizens regardless of institutional affiliation. Individuals participate in Encuentros and other Institute activities based on open applications, and our online Digital Video Library is free and accessible to all. The Hemispheric Institute's governance structure is based upon a network of member institutions, which constitute its Executive Board.
Arizona State University
Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias
Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya
New York University
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Universidad Austral de Chile
Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León
Universidad Diego Portales
Universidad Nacional del de Colombia
Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
University of California at Los Angeles
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Manitoba
University of Pittsburgh
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Partner organizations and institutions include:
Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
Centro Cultural Recoleta
Centro do Teatro do Oprimido do Rio de Janeiro
El Museo del Barrio
Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani
La Pocha Nostra
The Culture Project
Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
Senior Fellows of the Hemispheric Institute:
The distinction of Senior Fellow is awarded to scholars, artists and activists affiliated with the Hemispheric Institute whose work exemplifies the highest achievement in the field of performance and politics. Fellows are selected by the Institute's Executive Board. The first two fellows were named at the 2007 Encuentro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Jesusa Rodríguez (2007)
Mexico’s most influential cabaret and political performance artist, recipient of an Obie Award. Often referred to as a chameleon, Rodríguez moves seemingly effortlessly and with vigor across the spectrum of cultural forms, styles, and tones. Her work challenges traditional classification, crossing with ease generic boundaries: from elite to popular to mass, from Greek tragedy to cabaret, from pre-Columbian indigenous to opera, from revue, sketch and carpa, to performative acts within political projects. She ran the famous El Hábito (www.elhabito.com.mx) in Mexico City with her partner, Liliana Felipe, where they staged hundreds of shows over the course of fifteen years. Most recently, she heads up the Resistencia Creativa movement in Mexico, whose key strategy is using "massive cabaret" as a tool for political action (www.resistenciacreativa.org.mx).
Luis Millones (2007)
As one of Peru's leading historians, Luis Millones is the recipient of Peru’s National Culture Fellowship and a founding member of the Interdisciplinary Seminar of Andean Studies in Lima. He is also a member of the Chilean Academy of History and a researcher with the National Ethnology Museum of Japan. Millones currently teaches in the graduate program of Social Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Peru, is professor emeritus of the University of San Cristobal de Huamanga, Ayacucho, and a visiting professor at several universities outside Peru. He is the author of numerous articles and books on the Andean world, including Ser indio en el Perú.
Areas of research can be categorized in a historical context
as well as a thematic context. The project began its focus, in terms of
a historical trajectory, with the Conquest, specifically the history of
the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. As a second stage, the project
examined Colonization, from the 17th and 18th century experiences in the
Americas. A third phase examined experiences of Nationalisms in the Americas,
generally of the 19th century. The fourth phase of research focused on
issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, specifically the effects of Globalization
and Migration in the Public Sphere. In thematic contexts, areas of research
can be described by the following topics of the annual Encuentros: "Performance
and Politics in the Americas"; "Memory, Atrocity and Resistance";
"Globalization, Migration, and the Public Sphere"; and "Spectacles
Hemispheric Institute Website
The Hemispheric Institute’s website houses a vast collection of invaluable materials related to performance in the Americas, including online archives of hundreds of hours of video footage; a series of multimedia casebooks or “web cuadernos” devoted to specific artists, companies or themes; our online journal (e-misférica); images, scholarly texts, course syllabi, interviews, and more.
Every two years, the Institute hosts an Encuentro—a ten-day conference/festival—in a different site in the Americas. Fostering experimentation, dialogue, and collaboration, each Encuentro brings together approximately 500 scholars, artists, activists and students to take part in a program of keynote lectures, work groups, performances, installations, roundtable discussions, exhibits, video screenings and hands-on performance workshops. Past Encuentros have taken place in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Argentina. Future Encuentros are scheduled in Colombia and Canada.
The Institute’s work groups are thematically based and foster sustained interdisciplinary collaborative work between scholars and practitioners. In 2004, the Institute’s Intangible Cultural Heritage work group was invited by UNESCO to write the Manual on Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events as part of the implementation of the 2003 International Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage. Other work groups have focused on Circulating Religiosities, Trauma, Memory and Performance, Latin American “Orients,” Afro-Amerindian Performance, Enslaved Bodies, and Carnival and Popular Fiestas in the Americas, among others.
The Institute hosts team-taught seminars that combine the face-to-face quality of traditional classrooms with online collaboration, enabling students throughout the Americas to communicate and work together online. The Institute also offers an annual summer course in Lima, in conjunction with Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, Peru’s foremost theater collective. This intensive summer course is open to students from NYU and from other member institutions.
Housed in NYU’s Tamiment Library, the Archive of the Hemispheric Institute includes books, slides, videos, posters and other fragile documents that have been donated by affiliated artists and scholars in order to assure their preservation for future generations.
Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL)
In partnership with NYU Libraries, and with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, HIDVL is the world’s first digital video archive on performance and politics in the Americas. With over five hundred hours of digital video to date and extensive supporting materials in three languages, this permanent collection is publicly accessible through the Institute’s website and includes collections from artists such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Carmelita Tropicana, Danny Hoch, Richard Schechner, and Rosa Luisa Márquez, and from groups like Split Britches, Teatro Experimental de Cali, Circus Amok, El Teatro Campesino, Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, CADA, Teatro La Candelaria, and Malayerba. It also includes collections from important cultural institutions such as El Hábito and the American Indian Community House.
e-misférica: Performance and Politics in the Americas is the Institute’s flagship publication. This online, biannual journal is trilingual and features peer-reviewed essays, multimedia presentations, activist profiles, and film, performance and book reviews. Other publications include online research case books or “web cuadernos,” edited volumes, and special issues of scholarly journals (forthcoming).
Hemispheric New York
Hemispheric New York is a new, multifaceted initiative that engages New York City based artists and cultural institutions through an annual performance series, a program of workshops for emerging performers (EMERGENYC), and public lectures and forums in the New York area.
Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA is a center for research and performance of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics developed in conjunction with Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya (FOMMA), a Mayan women's theater collective based in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico. Located in the heart of the Barrio de Mexicanos in San Cristóbal, and featuring a state–of–the–art digital studio and a fully outfitted theater space, the center's mission is to promote, showcase and archive local performance practices and develop research, artistic creation and cultural programming with and for local, national and international communities. Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA receives support from New York University and the Ford Foundation.