Radical Vernaculars: Experiments with Tradition between Politics and Performance
Contributor(s)Boon, Marcus B.
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AbstractThis dissertation focuses on four collective projects that take “tradition” as a starting point for creative experiments in performance practice. All of these disparate projects are based in early 21st-century settler-colonial North America, and all of them have anachronistic, political, and playful qualities. Following a theoretical and methodological Introduction, the dissertation moves through close readings of four experiments with “traditional” practices. Chapter One looks at the Purim Extravaganza, a diasporic and queer version of the carnivalesque Jewish festival that takes place each year in New York City. Chapter Two addresses the mobile audiovisual performances of Ottawa DJ collective A Tribe Called Red, exploring Indigenous experiments with technology and tradition. Chapter Three gives an account of the Abandoned Practices Institute, a summer school in performance pedagogy based on forgotten or endangered everyday practices, run by former members of the performance collective Goat Island. Chapter Four investigates the North American revival of culinary fermentation practices, spurred in part by the writings of Sandor Katz, in order to examine the contradictions of vernacular revivals at the level of daily life. All of these collective experiments offer insight into the fate of “tradition” as that which is abandoned (and then recuperated in frozen form) during the modernizing process, especially in settler-colonial societies. By reactivating vernacular material that has been consigned to an unchanging past, these experimental projects work through complex histories of colonization, shame, and abandonment, moving toward a space of shared capacity and collective action. Drawing on both participatory and critical research, the thesis examines various performance strategies that experiment with vernacular forms across gaps in historical and cultural continuity. In so doing, it engages with key issues in contemporary political and aesthetic thought: temporality, community, coloniality, property, and collective practice.
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation