Performance studies is a discipline concerned with the various ways performance features in society and culture. Practitioners study a variety of forms of performance, including theatre, music, cultural and religious rituals, ceremonies and sporting events. Performance studies is interdisciplinary, including scholars and approaches from a variety of fields including literary studies, sociology, architecture, planning, neuroscience and psychology. Individual practitioners may focus on specific forms of performance, such as political events or television acting, but they are united by a shared emphasis on the knowledge and culture associated with the body.
Performance studies includes a wide variety of methods that may be used in conjunction with one another. For example, the Recovering the Voice project at Newcastle University includes perspectives from oral history, music, fine art, communication studies, literary studies, and ENT surgery to examine the significance of voice in a variety of contexts. Performance studies emphasises the unique forms of experiential knowledge carried in the body, and expressed through performance, which often defy traditional textual methods of study.
Performance studies emphasises corporeality and embodiedness, which are often overlooked by textual study. Sometimes performance is institutionalised in the form of theatre, television and film, but performance studies is also concerned with the instances in which it is not. When we carry out social rituals such as a handshake, or when we change our behaviour to suit our environment, we all perform in some capacity. Performance studies recognises the centrality of performance to society and culture, and considers how performance affects the world.
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