Performance and Politics in Global South

Semester: SS 19
Lecturer: Univ.-Lekt. Rüstem Ertug Altinay, Ph.D.

How can we study performance to understand the making of the Global South and the dynamics of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism that sustain the global power hierarchies that resulted in this geographical conception? In this course, we explored this question in the light of canonical texts and emerging voices on the politics of performance in the Global South and its diasporas.

The transdisciplinary field of performance studies began to develop in the 1960s at the intersection of theater, anthropology, and philosophy of language. Using performance as a lens to study diverse realms of society, scholars in the field challenge the illusion of “naturalness” that often defines our conceptions of everyday life. Instead, the performance studies paradigm allows us to explore how social order is scripted and invented, and how social and political categories and identities become normalized through continuous repetition. As such, the concepts of performance and performativity can provide crucial insights into the formation of the Global South and its diasporas.

In this course, rather than taking “the Global South” as given, we studied it as a dynamic category of analysis. “The Global South” emerged as a term in the writings of socialist intellectuals in the late 1960s, primarily as an alternative to “the Third World.” While the term and the geographical conception it implies had some presence in mainstream politics during the Cold War, it has been primarily in the last fifteen years that the North/South divide has become a popular way of understanding global inequality and exploitation. As such, the Global South is a concept deeply embedded in geopolitics, and the physical and cultural borders defining the region have been the subject of constant negotiation. We used performativity and performance as a lens to examine these negotiations as well as their ramifications on the politics of subjectivity and belonging. Our emphasis on performance helped us to develop a critical understanding of the politics of everyday life as well as the intertwined operations of power on the global and individual level.

Class meetings were composed of a combination of lecture, discussion, critical reading and embodied learning workshops, and in-class viewings. We also hosted guest speakers and attended live performances in Vienna.

In this course, students:

  • gained familiarity with the key works and emerging debates on performance and politics in the Global South and its diasporas, and developed the ability to engage with this literature in independent projects for this class and future research.
  • developed a critical understanding of the notion of “Global South,” and the complex intellectual, political, and ethical implications of the term.
  • became acquainted with the methods and theories of performance studies.
  • learned how the study of performance can provide vital insights into global politics as well as the ramifications of global politics on everyday life.
  • developed the ability to analyze every day and artistic performances, and write about them critically.
  • examined the relationship between theory and practice, and how this relationship unfolds in the context of performance and politics in the Global South.
  • expanded critical thinking, argumentation, reading, and writing skills with the aid of in-class exercises and workshops as well as independent projects.


  • Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction, 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.
  • Fanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness.” In The Post-colonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995.
  • Muñoz, José Esteban. “Introduction: Performing Disidentifications.” In Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
  • Loomba, Ania. “Shakespeare and the Possibilities of Postcolonial Performance.” In A Companion to Shakespeare and Performance, ed. Barbara Hodgdon and W.B. Worthen. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.
  • Taylor, Diana. “Acts of Transfer.” In The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
  • Bhahba, Homi K. “Of Mimicry and Man.” In The Performance Studies Reader, ed. Henry Bial. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.
  • Gilbert, Helen. “Dance, Movement and Resistance Politics.” In The Post-colonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995.
  • Kanneh, Kadiatu. “Feminism and the Colonial Body.” In The Post-colonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge 1995.
  • Krus, Patricia. “Postcolonial Performance.” Ariel 38, 1 (2007): 121-127.
  • Çağlar, Ayşe. “Still ‘Migrants’ After All Those Years: Foundational Mobilities, Temporal Frames and Emplacement of Migrants.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (2016): 952-969.
  • Sharifi, Azadeh. “Wir wollten ein Zeichen setzen: Performance and Protest by Minorities in German Theatre.” Performance Paradigm 14 (2018): 45-63.
  • Tinius, Jonas. “Authenticity and Otherness: Reflecting Statelessness in German Postmigrant Theatre.” Critical Stages 14 (2016).
  • Boal, Augusto. Theater of the Oppressed. London: Pluto Press, 2008.

Individual Project
Format: Paper
Topic 1: Explicit performative utterances
Topic 2: Tape piece by Yoko Ono (included performance)
Topic 3: Critical Analysis. The Concept of the ‘Self’ in Culture and Performance