Course Description



Political Performance

H42.2406 (Torchtone #74067), Spring, 2004, Wednesdays, 12:30- 3:15
Office hrs. Tuesday 3-5 or by appointment 

Professor: Diana Taylor, (

Assistant: Diego Benegas (

    Course Description

    This course examines the use of performance—by the State, by oppositional groups, and by theatre and performance practitioners—to solidify or challenge structures of power. The course looks at specific paradigms of power (conquest, colonionialsm, fascism, military dictatorship, capitalism) of the 20th and 21st centuries— to example of how public spectacles have been used to support or contest state power: Nazi rallies, to anti-war demonstrations, AIDS activism, and ‘escraches’ (acts of public shaming by the children of the ‘disappeared’ in Argentina), to the current use of stagecraft by the Bush administration. Following the lead of Guy Debord, we will examine how the “concentrated spectacle” of fascism and military dictatoriships blends with “diffuse” spectacles of capitalism resulting in the “integrated spectacle” of the current U.S. administration. How do theatrical terms such as ‘catharsis,’ ‘mimesis,’ ‘identification,’ ‘spectatorship,’ etc. Serve to elucidate political strategies? Students will be asked to develop their own sites of analysis.

    Readings include: Guy Debord, Walter Banjamin, Bertold Brecht, Augusto Boal.

    The course includes a web component.

    Click "Syllabus" on the sidebar to view the course syllabus.


    Books at NYU Bookstore:

    Boal, Augusto. 2000. Theatre of the Oppressed. London: Pluto.

    Debord, Guy. 1977. Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red.

    Baudrillard, Jean. 1994. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Taylor, Diana. 1997. Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War." Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.  

    All other readings are available through the website,
    NOTE: links on the names of readings refer to eadings available in the site of the Hemispheric Institute, links outside our server are both written and linked. Write them in your browser in case the link does not work.


    The class requires active class participation. Please let me know if you will miss a class. In addition to class participation, students are responsible for weekly postings to the course web board. The class also requires a written paper, and a collaborative web project. Computer workshops are available to help students prepare for the web components of the course. 

    Added notes about work groups & web boards:
    Students must post/respond to work group web-boards 1x weekly. 

    Technology Components of the Course

    As part of the course, students are expected to participate in a collaborative web-based project. Each student's contribution (created individually or with another student) will be a section of the larger class-wide web project. For example, students interested in discussing strategies for activist street performance might be asked to work together to develop a section on the topic for the collective web-cuaderno. These might include a historical timeline and a short written historical overview, a bibliography, photographs, student essays, and links to other sites of interest. This research and collaboration will not only expand our understanding of performance and politics and will prove a valuable addition to the field. You will get credit for the work you do, and you will be able to cite it on your c.v.--both a proof of a certain technological competence and as a research project. However, as the site is ongoing, someone may add more information as time goes on. They, too, will indicate what they have contributed and will receive acknowledgement for that. All materials posted on the Hemispheric Institute site belong to their original owners/creators. Please remember to fill out the archival identification form to give as much information as possible about all the materials you contribute. 

    It is best, for the purposes of this class, for students to pair up in groups of two or more. The criteria for establishing a group might be: 1) mutual interests, 2) compatible expertise-one person may have strong computer skills while another might have practical activist experience or knowledge of a different geographical area. 

    On the first day of class a tour of the Hemispheric web site will be given. This will serve as an overview of Hemi's work and resources on-line, point you to all the course materials and most importantly will show you examples of past students final web-projects. We want you to start thinking about your final project now and this virtual tour will help you to begin imagining what you want to do while giving you a sense of the design and technology involved in creating it. There will be two web workshop's given through the Hemispheric Institute office led by Alexei Taylor. These workshops will take place there or in the Muliti-Media ACF lab on the second floor of the Education Building, at 35 West 4th Street. For those of you with little or no web design experience there will be a template available for you to use where you can simply plug in images and text. We encourage you to be adventurous and creative with your web projects, but we also don't want to drive you nuts. Please note that we are requiring all students to use Dreamweaver. In the workshops, we will explain *in detail* how to work with this application. 

    Part I of the workshop will introduce you to the set-up of the computers and the various applications available in the Education Building Multi-Media labs. Techniques such as scanning and converting text files to HTML files will be addressed. For the first session, you should bring with you at least one photo or image and one text file, preferably a preliminary bibliography, of the subject matter you will be researching for your web page project on a Zip disk. During the first workshop, Alexei will guide you through the process of getting those text and image files into a format ready for the web. 

    Part II of the workshop will introduce basic web page design and show you the template we've already created, so that you can begin to organize and link your various files into a cohesive web page. At the end of Part II, you should have a basic web page, with at least one image file and a bibliography or other text file linked to it, in addition to at least one link to another site of relevant interest. We will share these initial pages in class and discuss ideas about both design and content. This basic web page will be the first step in creating your final assignment. 

    Please bring to the workshops: 
    1) at least one photo/image to be scanned 
    2) a digital image file, if you have one (optional) 
    3) a disk with a bibliography or other text file 
    4) one zip disk (blank)