Performing Arts, Research, and the Public

Course Description: 

This course explores the performing arts (in the broad sense of the term) as an important site for feminist interventions in arts, activisms, and knowledge production. In the past few decades, the performing arts have radically changed their relationship with the public. While they previously inhabited special institutions (such as theatres and plazas), they have now advanced to almost everywhere across public, private, and virtual domains – often converging with social movements, cultural practices, and everyday rituals. As such, the performing arts have participated in feminist and other critical conversations on various issues, including the power relations of gender/sexuality, race, and disability; belonging and displacement; ecological crisis; and science and technology. At the same time, the relationship between performance and research has come to the fore in academia. Judith Butler’s approach to gender as performative is one important spur among several that have stimulated a new approach to key social ideas. In this context, the performative aspects of research have also become a site of interdisciplinary discussion and experimentation among scholars and artists – challenging the conventional claim that knowledge is separable from the subject, object, and social conventions of knowing. Exploring the political and scholarly potential for engaging with performance in “the century of the performative” (Claire Colebrook), this course aims to (1) examine feminist and other critical interventions in and through performing arts and (2) experiment with new ways of learning, making, and sharing knowledge through creative interaction with the public.  

This year’s theme is “How to Do Things with Cyborgs.” Inspired by use of the cyborg as a feminist figure and methodology in the works of Donna Haraway and other scholars, this theme is an invitation to engage with the subjects of science, technology, and medicine alongside performance and/as research. And, of course, you’re invited to make critical and creative interpretations of these key terms and fields.

Please note that this course is designed as a pilot case for my Teaching Development Project (with a grant from CEU), which aims to develop pedagogical methods for incorporating performing arts into academic research projects that involve interaction with the public. So, please be prepared for active involvement in the various modes of learning, including workshops, guest lectures, and pedagogical presentations, as well as a group performance-research project. Thanks to the grant, we’ll have an opportunity to work closely with project assistant Iva Dimovska, who will assist me in developing pedagogical methods and take a lead role in creating podcast reports about the course.


The course is listed as elective for the Visual Theory and Practice certificate program.

Learning Outcomes: 

After taking this course:

Students will be able to engage with the major conversations among feminist and queer critiques and performance theories.

Students will understand the key issues raised by the performative approach to research.

Students will have first-hand experience with “performance as research” as a way of learning, creating, and sharing knowledge through interaction with the public.



Attendance and Participation (20%):

Please complete the reading and screening assignment each week, and come to class prepared for class discussion. Curiosity, humility, generosity, respect, and risk-taking are expected for our collective journey. Attendance is mandatory. Absences due to medical reasons should be officially documented. Missing a class will negatively affect your grade, and missing more than two weeks might result in failing the course. Lateness will negatively affect your grade, too. If you are late, it is your responsibility to notify me after the class.

The participation component includes active engagement in the podcasts as a part of the TDP. Over the semester, Iva and I will create 2~3 podcasts, based primarily on discussions of pedagogical methods and interviews with various participants (including the students in the course). The purpose of this activity is to collect the experience of, reflections on, and suggestions about pedagogical methods for incorporating performing arts – and to share these thoughts with the CEU community.

Pedagogical Presentation (20%): Students (in small groups) will give a presentation as if they are teaching fellow students, focusing on chosen pieces of performance relevant to the main theme of the week. This task will help students to tactically mobilize fragmentary “cases” in order to navigate the complex and conflicting terrains of arts, politics, and cultures. After each presentation, the class will discuss its pedagogic performance (more than simply delivery of knowledge), collectively evolving presentation and teaching methods in interdisciplinary settings.

Moodle Posting (20%): Students will write two Moodle posts during the semester: first a critique on one of the pedagogical presentations given by fellow students (5%), and second an analytic response to the weekly readings (15%).

Group Research-Performance Project (40%): Throughout the course, students (in large groups) will develop their own research-based group performance projects. These projects will involve creative use of media and technology to interact with communities within and outside CEU. For example, a group might create a podcast-drama as an experimental ethnography on refugees in Hungary in collaboration with OLive participants, or design a poetic bike tour using CEU Bike Share system. In the final two weeks, student groups will present their research-performance pieces (followed by class discussion), and submit individual reports reflecting on their learning through their projects (due date TBA).