This dissertation examines the ways in which a neighborhood’s vernacular performances—its everyday spatial practices, its interactions with city and state policy, its representations of Texas identity, its communal creations of performances of festivity and protest—constitute acts of aesthetic and political ingenuity that, in the tradition of the avant garde, directly challenge the dominant forms of political subjectivity and practice that have operated across 150 years of Texas history. In the process, this study advocates for a deep examination of the relationship between performance and local productions of space in order to unearth unrecognized avant garde performances, in order to broaden the historical record of the avant garde in the U.S., and in order to challenge historiographic biases within the field of study. Using research methodologies as varied as archival research, performance ethnographies, oral histories, culturally-specific storytelling, personal interviews, and arts-based community engagement work, the dissertation offers close readings of the texts and contexts of East Austin’s avant garde performance traditions including the early Juneteenth celebrations of the black community, the Chicano teatros of the East Austin Brown Berets, and the work of the collective theatre Rude Mechs. In each of these interpretations of East Austin performance, new understandings of avant garde performance practice highlight how minoritarian communities utilize performance as a tool with which to critique and challenge the production of space and the flows of power in Austin, Texas.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2016. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisor: Sonja Kuftinec. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 296 pages.
East of the Center: Resingularizations of the Avant Garde in East Austin, Texas.
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