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Cultural Struggles

Performance, Ethnography, Praxis

Dwight Conquergood

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. 1-1

Title page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: “Opening and Interpreting Lives”

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pp. 1-14

Most institutions of higher learning prioritize three areas in which its faculty must excel: research, teaching, and service. These three areas are often the sites where administrations make faculty accountable at the time of tenure and promotion. Rarely, however, do any of us excel in all three without making some kind of personal sacrifice or succumbing to burnout. ...

I. Performance

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pp. 15-14

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Performing Cultures: Ethnography, Epistemology, and Ethics

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pp. 15-25

With the “interpretive turn”1 in the human sciences, researchers have begun restoring and unpacking the ancient theatrum mundi topos for fresh ways of thinking and talking about social life. Victor Turner summarizes this current shift in his field: ...

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Of Caravans and Carnivals: Performance Studies in Motion

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pp. 26-31

Peggy Phelan has presented us with a challenging exercise: to identify a key issue, a pressing point of intersection between our local institution and the more expansive future of the field—and, she has enjoined us to be brief. ...

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Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research

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pp. 32-46

According to Michel de Certeau, “what the map cuts up, the story cuts across” (de Certeau 1984, 129). This pithy phrase evokes a postcolonial world crisscrossed by transnational narratives, diaspora affiliations, and, especially, the movement and multiple migrations of people, sometimes voluntary, but often economically propelled and politically coerced. ...

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Beyond the Text: Toward a Performative Cultural Politics

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pp. 47-64

The good news is that in recent decades there has been a remarkable constellation of thinking around performance. The “antitheatrical prejudice” notwithstanding, performance is now a powerful locus for research in the human sciences, a rallying point for scholars who want to privilege action, agency, and transformation (Barish 1981). ...

II. Ethnography

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pp. 65-75

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Performing as a Moral Act: Ethical Dimensions of the Ethnography of Performance

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pp. 65-80

Ethnographers study the diversity and unity of cultural performance as a universal human resource for deepening and clarifying the meaningfulness of life. They help us see performance with all its moral entailments, not as a flight from lived responsibilities. ...

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Rethinking Ethnography: Towards a Critical Cultural Politics

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pp. 81-103

Critical theory is not a unitary concept. It resembles a loose coalition of interests more than a united front. But whatever it is or is not, one thing seems clear: Critical theory is committed to unveiling the political stakes that anchor cultural practices—research and scholarly practices no less than the everyday. ...

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Rethinking Elocution: The Trope of the Talking Book and Other Figures of Speech

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pp. 104-126

The intellectual currency of “performance” has stimulated a rediscovery of elocution by literary historians1 and a resuturing of elocution and oral interpretation into the intertwining disciplinary genealogies of English, speech, theater, and performance studies (Jackson 1999; Lee 1999). ...

III. Praxis

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p. 127-127

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Health Theatre in aHmong Refugee Camp: Performance, Communication, and Culture

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pp. 127-169

A Hmong widow walks to a crossroad in Camp Ban Vinai, surveys the scene, and then settles herself on a bench outside the corner hut. Bracing her back against the split-bamboo wall, she begins to sing. At first softly, as if to herself, she sings a Hmong khy txhiaj (folksong). ...

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Life in Big Red: Struggles and Accommodations in a Chicago Polyethnic Tenement

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pp. 170-223

At 10:00 A.M. on August 16, 1988, Bao Xiang, a Hmong woman from Laos, stepped out the back door of her top-floor Big Red apartment and the rotting porch collapsed beneath her feet. All summer long I had swept away slivers of wood that had fallen from the Xiongs’ decrepit porch onto mine, one floor below. ...

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Homeboys and Hoods: Gang Communication and Cultural Space

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pp. 224-263

Gangs give new meaning to group communication. For gangs, esprit de corps is an overarching goal and much celebrated achievement of all communication praxis. More than a discursive context, the gang as group is a way of being in the world, both modus vivendi and moral vision. ...

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Lethal Theatre: Performance, Punishment, and the Death Penalty

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pp. 264-302

In 1975 Michel Foucault published Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, a landmark book that opened with two astonishing chapters, “The Body of the Condemned” and “The Spectacle of the Scaffold,” harrowing accounts in gruesome detail of the performance of capital punishment in the premodern era (Foucault 1979). ...

IV. Critical Responses

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pp. 303-315

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Dwight Conquergood and Performative Political Economy

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pp. 303-305

Dwight Conquergood has received and will continue to receive wild encomia for his extraordinary contributions—as writer, filmmaker, and teacher—to performance theory and practice. But it is the particularly political-economic nature of his work that I most appreciated, as his colleague and friend, and that I continue to treasure. ...

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Response-ability,Vulnerability, and Other(s’) Bodies

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pp. 306-309

In a tribute to his friend, the late Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida observed: “Death: not, first of all, annihilation, nonbeing or nothingness, but a certain experience for the survivor of the ‘without-response.’”1 Dwight Conquergood was so articulate, brilliant and bitingly funny, and intellectually and socially generous that even now, ...

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Caravans Continued: In Memory of Dwight Conquergood

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pp. 310-313

At the premature January memorial of Dwight Conquergood—teacher, scholar, activist, performer, foster parent, foster grandparent, godfather, neighbor, and professor of performance studies at Northwestern University—former students and colleagues from around the world gathered to pay tribute. ...

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“Is Dwight, White?!” or Black Transgressions and the Preeminent Performance of Whiteness

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pp. 314-319

At one of the many memorial services for Dwight, a beloved African American female student of his, Professor Renee Alexander-Craft,1 stepped up to the podium and told the story of how she shared with her dearest friends or “sisterhood” a visit with Dwight in the hospital, during his last days. ...

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“Soundscapes of Power”: Attending to Orality, Communicating Class, and Hearing the Humor in Dwight Conquergood’s “Voice”

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pp. 320-323

“Voice” is often used as a metaphor for individuality, agency, and point of view. Readers of this collection are fortunate to be introduced to Dwight Conquergood’s work through his unique voice that resonates in his writing. Engaging, powerful, and replete with wry wit, Dwight’s voice compels readers to consider the ethical dimensions of performance ...

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Performance into Policy

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pp. 324-327

Dwight gained some renown for being out of place. To turn one of his preferred phrases: he mattered out of place.1 He moved into Big Red, one of the Chicago tenements where many of the gang members with whom he worked for many subsequent years as an ethnographic co-subject lived. ...

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Eloquence and Vocation: Dwight’s Calling

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pp. 328-323

Dwight Conquergood’s career-long commitment to people with hyphenated identities began with Anglo-Saxons. He wrote his dissertation as a medievalist, exploring the literary remains of a primordial speech act—the boast. He submitted “The Anglo-Saxon Boast: Structure and Function” to the School of Speech at Northwestern in August 1977 after accepting his first job, ...

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pp. 333-334

E. Patrick Johnson is the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African-American Studies at Northwestern University. He is also an Artistic Fellow at the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College, Chicago. ...


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pp. 335-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029297
E-ISBN-10: 0472029290
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472071951
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071955

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 36 black and white and color photos, 9 figures, 18 tables
Publication Year: 2013