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Performing Utopia

In her landmark study Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre, Jill Dolan departed from historical writings on utopia, which suggest that social reorganization and the redistribution of wealth are utopian efforts, to argue instead that utopia occurs in fragmentary “utopian moments,” often found embedded within performance. While Dolan focused on the utopian performative within a theatrical context, this volume, edited by Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro, expands her theories to encompass performance in public life—from diasporic hip-hop battles, Chilean military parades, commemorative processions, Blackfoot powwows, and post-Katrina Mardi Gras to the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, Festas Juninas in Brazil, the Renaissance Fairs in Arizona, and neoburlesque competitions.

How do these performances rehearse and enact visions of a utopic world? What can the lens of utopia and dystopia illuminate about the potential of performing bodies to transform communities, identities, values, and beliefs across time? Performing Utopia not only answers these questions, but offers a diverse collection of case studies focusing on utopias, dystopias, and heterotopias enacted through the performing body.

288 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016


Art: Art--General Studies

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"Performing Utopia [is] an insightful reminder of the broad range of activities that can be analyzed through a utopian lens and the responsibility to address the dystopias and heterotopias that are often unintended byproducts of utopia."

Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

"What Performing Utopia does most successfully is draw critical attention to the distinct, historically and geographically situated political economies of pageantry, parades, and processions, thereby inviting contingency and even healthy skepticism into the utopic discourses that surround such participatory performances."

Theatre Journal

Table of Contents

Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro
Part One
Embodied utopias
Chapter 1
Learning from Ngᾱtahi: Rapumentary Film, the Utopian Imagination and Politics of the Possible
Luis Alvarez
Chapter 2
‘Indians on Parade’: Spectacular Encounters in the Canadian West
Lisa Doolittle and Anne Flynn
Chapter 3
Quadrilhas Caipiras: Encountering Difference and the Making of Creative Communities in Festas Juninas, Sᾶo Paulo, Brazil
Pegge Vissicaro
Part Two
Utopian Laughter from Minstrelsy to Burlesque
Chapter 4
The Arizona Renaissance Festival: A Performance in Three Movements
Kevin McHugh and Ann Fletchall
Chapter 5
The Wenches of the Philadelphia Mummers Parade: A Performance Genealogy
Christian Ducomb
Chapter 6
Revealed Spaces: The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend and Neo-burlesque Performance
Laura Dougherty
Part Three
Heterotopias and Dystopias as Contemporary Spaces of Healing
Chapter 7
Heterotopias of Power: Miners, Mapuche, and Soldiers in the Production of the Utopian Chile
Néstor Bravo Goldsmith
Chapter 8
Mourning En Masse: Tucson’s All Soul’s Day Procession
Rachel Bowditch
Chapter 9
Performing Dystopia: Hurricane Katrina and the 2006 Mardi Gras Parade
Katherine Nigh
Notes on Contributors

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