thoughts on performing in higher education.


We recently did a workshop on improvisational acting. I am not an actor and honestly have no desire for that type of spotlight or stage. Performance always makes me feel dishonest—the act of separating oneself for displayment has never appealed to me. In general, I would have been frustrated by such an activity. With papers to write and grade, books to read, conferences to prepare for, spending time making sounds and chasing my peers in a circle wouldn’t seem like a thoughtful use of a Monday evening. However, because the activity was framed within the role of the future professoriate, it got me to thinking about how we perform (the term perform leads me to broaden my scope of thought rather than the term “communicate” which was the term actually used by facilitators and the syllabus)? In what ways is learning performative? Assessment, diversity, inclusion, power? This is not to say performances are not authentic—but rather, that we must be aware of how these things incorporate elements of performance. How can I make this space open to everyone? How can we learn to communicate beyond the roles we believe we are supposed to uphold? How can we learn to perform in ways that empower?


Below is a short lecture by the wonderful Judith Butler. This line of thinking is highly influential on my own reflections regarding the classroom space:



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