Introduction: The Stuff of Teaching


  • Dr. Karin Shankar Pratt Institute
  • Dr. Julia Steinmetz Pratt Institute


What does a performance studies syllabus instantiate or call into being? As an interdiscipline, performance studies has been incorporated as an academic field while still remaining sensationally unsettled in its interventions, methods, and objects of analysis. Performance studies syllabi may function as performance scores, performative texts, archives of pedagogical practice, and finally, as the material trace of our performance as teachers. Indeed, the classroom, for many of us, is our most prolific and durational performance site. These iterative classroom performances rely on scripts as well as improvisational practices, with new forms and constellations emerging from the tried and true. The classroom is then a black box: a space for the staging of collective process, of dialogical exchange, and of inquiry itself as a performance form. It is also a black box in another sense: the classroom walls obscure its inner workings, rendering the performance of pedagogy strikingly difficult to represent. How do we document these pedagogical performances and make them accessible in some way to those who weren’t there? Assembled together in this special issue of Performance Matters, the materials that follow offer up a material trace of the ephemeral collective life of the performance studies classroom. As performances go, teaching is a particularly durational one that is notoriously difficult to document. The texts assembled here constitute an archive of performance studies pedagogy. It is our hope that the scripts, scores, exercises, and the shared ethos they enact will be reanimated and improvised upon in the embodied repertoire of new classrooms.

Author Biographies

Dr. Karin Shankar , Pratt Institute

Karin Shankar (PhD) is an assistant professor of performance studies in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, TDR, Feminist Teacher, Art India, ASAP/Journal, Performance Philosophy, and elsewhere. She is currently working on her book manuscript, titled Molecular Aesthetics: Contemporary Art and Performance in India.

Dr. Julia Steinmetz , Pratt Institute

Julia Steinmetz (PhD) is an assistant professor of performance studies in the Humanities and Media Studies Department at Pratt Institute. Julia’s scholarly work has appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, QED: A Journal of GLBT Worldmaking, E-misférica, and Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, for which she also co-edited the special issue "Feminist Landscapes." Her book manuscript, Performance Between the Psyche and the Social, focuses on mechanisms of psychic, interpersonal and social transformation in contemporary performance, institutional critique, and collective forms.