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Faculty Research Areas


Theater of State: a Dramaturgy of the United Nations (Northwestern University Press, 2019)

In this innovative study of performance in international relations, James R. Ball III asks why states and their representatives come to the United Nations to perform for a global audience and how those audiences may intervene in the spectacle of global politics. Theater of State looks at key spaces in which global politics play out: in debating forums of the UN, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and in peacekeeping operations in Africa and the Middle East, as well as in a variety of related media productions. Ball argues that culture and politics form a unified field organized by the theatricality of its actors and the engaged spectatorship of its audiences. He provides a theory of global political spectatorship: of how the world watches itself in institutions and beyond, and of what citizens and diplomats do by watching. -- MORE



Sound-Politics in São Paulo (Oxford University Press, 2019)

In this book, Cardoso argues that the framing of specific sounds as unavoidable, unnecessary, or as harmful "noise" has been an effective strategy to organize spaces and administer group behavior in this rapidly expanding city. He focuses on two interrelated processes. First, the series of institutional regulatory mechanisms that turn sounds into the all-embracing "noise" susceptible to state intervention. Second, the constant attempts of interested groups in either attaching or detaching specific sounds (musical events, industrial noise, traffic noise, religious sounds, etc.) from regulatory scrutiny. Sound-politics is the dynamic that emerges from both processes - the channels through which sounds enter (and leave) the sphere of state regulation. -- MORE




Spiders of the Market: Ghanian Trickster Performance in a Web of Neoliberalism (Indiana University Press, 2016)

The Ghanaian trickster-spider, Ananse, is a deceptive figure full of comic delight who blurs the lines of class, politics, and morality. David Afriyie Donkor identifies social performance as a way to understand trickster behavior within the shifting process of political legitimization in Ghana, revealing stories that exploit the social ideologies of economic neoliberalism and political democratization. At the level of policy, neither ideology was completely successful, but Donkor shows how the Ghanaian government was crafty in selling the ideas to the people, adapting trickster-rooted performance techniques to reinterpret citizenship and the common good. Trickster performers rebelled against this takeover of their art and sought new ways to out trick the tricksters. -- MORE



Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2016)

Performance has become a paradigm for analyzing contemporary culture, a pattern that structures a particular view of human interaction and experience. Performance is also widely used to better understand how we express values and ideas, including religious beliefs. Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance asks how the sensibilities of religious experience, which many people call spirituality, shape people's performance. When we observe people performing words, dances, music, and rituals they consider sacred, what (if any) conclusions can we draw about their experiences from what we see, read, and hear? By analyzing performances of spirituality and what people experience as "spirit," this book adds a new dimension to the paradigm of performance.

Rather than reducing the spiritual dimension to either biology or culture, the book asks what such experiences might have to offer a reasoned analysis of vernacular culture. The specific performances presented are meditative dance and shamanic drumming, including descriptions of these practices and exegesis of practitioners' writings on the nature of spiritual experience and performance. -- MORE