Welcome

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Photo: Julio Pantoja

From the Director

The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics is more than a "place"—it’s a practice. Or, better, an inter-related series of practices. The Hemispheric Institute is a rich network of institutions, scholars, artists, and activists throughout the Americas that work at the intersection of "performance" and "politics" (both broadly understood).

Drawing from the post-disciplinary field of Performance Studies, we take embodied practice and behaviors as our object of analysis—everything from theatre, dance, sports, political rallies, and ritual to the aesthetics of everyday life. And instead of seeing the Americas as a delimiting, bounded place, we approach it as a portal for thinking about shared practices through centuries of migration and diasporic movements to and through the landmass.

Identities are far more flexible and relational than formulated in the national frameworks of area or ethnic studies. The events and behaviors that interest us are hemispheric—they cannot be thought or analyzed from any one place. No one vantage point or theory can account for them.

Our project relies on continually reconfigured and collaborative practice, with no privileged point of entry. Paying critical attention to repertoires of lived behaviors expands what counts as knowledge and enables alternate epistemological mappings. New knowledge requires new archives, richer digital learning environments, and more complex critical methodologies. As important, our collaborative practice has generated more interdisciplinary models of scholarly interaction. Our project combines electronically mediated communication with face-to-face encounter, research with teaching, electronic archives of primary source materials with field research in local communities, and knits everything together in forums for ongoing discussion and debate.

For the past ten years, scholars and students from a broad range of disciplines across the arts, humanities, and social sciences have worked together through the Hemispheric Institute to advance their research in work groups, discussion forums, and publication projects. They team-teach a curriculum on performance and politics in the Americas from the 16th century to the present. Senior faculty mentor junior faculty as well as graduate students. Major artists remind us all that practice enacts a theory, and that theoretical interventions also act in the world.

Yet all these interactions and research projects require board-based institutional support. Member institutions have been active participants, hosting Encuentros and working group meetings, enabling us to develop team taught courses, and providing programming networks that facilitate bringing artists and scholars to our campuses.

This year we want to thank the Universidad Nacional de Colombia for hosting the 7th International Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute, Staging Citizenship. We look forward to ten days of sharing work, listening, discussing, and developing long term professional relationships. Thanks to everyone who gives of their talents and commitment to make the Hemispheric Institute such a rich practice and Encuentros such wonderful events.

Diana Taylor

 


From Marta Zambrano

Welcome to Bogotá! The organizing team at the Universidad Nacional hopes you enjoy our city, our campus and above all, we hope this Encuentro is productive for each and every one of you. We have worked for over a year on this collective project that includes teaching, research and outreach in the hope of generating new ideas and public interventions inspired by the themes that we will explore during this event.

Reflecting on the intersection of the multicultural turn and the neoliberal moment in the Americas, we suggested to the Hemispheric Institute in New York that for this Encuentro, we take as our topic the enactment of claims for citizenship as an instance of performance and politics. This proposal responds to the need for connection and examination of the growing relationship between cultural rights and racial, religious and sexual affiliations alongside demands for social justice. Demands for the recognition of places of difference allow us to hear new voices and offer a privileged perspective on these issues.

Currently, we are experiencing an increasingly powerful emergence of individuals and collectivities who are claiming their cultural rights. Their struggles result in new categories of citizenship that are at the same time broader and more fragmented. As notions of unitary and anonymous citizenship are progressively pluralized within national contexts, the granting of differential citizenships tends to encapsulate and separate groups and individuals within fixed boundaries. Thus, in multicultural settings, social inclusion has often been subordinated to cultural recognition. At the same time, contemporary forms of citizenship have traversed the canonical borders of the nation-state in order to raise questions and demands about the rights of migrants, exiles, those with multiple nationalities and those who lack a national affiliation. In these arenas, the performativity of cultural rights is made public through and in a broad array of forms and locations, and exists in a state of permanent redefinition and struggle.

Based on this perspective, we arrived at three themes for this biannual Encuentro which brings together activism, scholarship and art: the legacies and memories of citizenship, the struggles for citizenship, and the frontiers of citizenship. From this starting point, we invite recognition and debate of both historical and contemporary demands for citizenship. It is also important to consider the diverse forms of citizen mobilization—the ways in which social groups strive for social and cultural rights and the roles that both difference and inequality play in these processes. These issues take place and are staged in diverse ways across the Americas, from Patagonia to the Arctic Circle. From the outset, however, we had the Colombian experience in mind. This experience poses provocative conceptual, performatic and political challenges. Colombia is a country with an advanced legal framework that grants differential cultural rights to ethnic, sexual and religious collectivities. It recognizes the land rights of indigenous and black peoples as well as their right to control their own education. At the same time, it is one of the most unequal countries in the hemisphere with regards to land distribution and leads the world´s statistics in the duration of its armed conflict and the size of the population internally displaced by it. In the face of these histories of pillage, violence and exclusion, a multitude of social mobilizations, marches with religious overtones, new forms of indigenous solidarity and organization (mingas), and public performances weaving together diverse aesthetics, modes of signification and body iterations, open up new possibilities and alternatives to the authoritarian and dichotomous views that currently surround us.

Through these proposals, we seek to contribute to strengthen already established networks in previous Encuentros and to create new ones. We pursue a renewed horizontal and hemispheric collaboration. Our goal is to build forms of global citizenship that are more collaborative and less unjust, a goal of the Hemispheric Institute.

It is difficult to name all of the people who have contributed to the organization of this Encuentro—they are many and even though some are included in the credits, I want to extend my gratitude to all of them. Thanks to the Hemispheric Institute for the trust they placed in us. We also owe a special debt of gratitude to the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and particularly the five Schools (Human Sciences, Arts, Economic Sciences, Law and Nursing) that believed in [the project of an interdisciplinary group of professors. These schools contributed considerable financial and human resources as well as scholarly guidance in order to make this Encuentro a reality. Without the support of the Secretaría de Cultura y Turismo de Bogotá at the Office of the Mayor of the City and the Subdirección de Artes of the Colombian Ministry of Culture this event could not have been possible.

Marta Zambrano

 

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