Doctor of Philosophy (MA/PhD) in Performance Studies

The School of Communication's graduate program in performance studies is rooted in the analysis and exploration of performance as both artistic practice and scholarly method, and as a means for engaging history, culture, and human expression.

Students in the program produce provocative research in cultural studies, ethnography, performance theory and criticism, pedagogy, and digital scholarship. They also pursue creative application and translation of their research in performance, curatorial work, media production, organizational leadership, creative industries, education, and activism. 

The Department of Performance Studies works closely with other departments and programs within the university. In your coursework and research you will draw from such fields as Anthropology, African Studies, African-American Studies, Gender Studies, Radio-TV-Film, Theatre & Drama, and others. Performance studies PhD students may also earn a graduate certificate in Gender Studies, Asian Studies, Critical Theory, Rhetoric and Public Culture, Religion and Global Politics, or African Studies while pursuing their degree. Performance Studies also participates actively in the Graduate School's Cluster initiative, which fosters interdisciplinary study and interdepartmental connections. As part of the Critical Studies in Theatre & Performance cluster, the department has helped to offer workshops for graduate students on such topics as collegiality and ethics, grant applications, job interviews, and publication of the dissertation. Detailed information about the Graduate School Cluster Initiative is available .

Recent dissertation topics exemplify the diverse research that students pursue, and provide a sense of scope and range of the department:

  • Carnival performance and the politics of race in Panama.
  • Dance and politics in Argentina.
  • Pleasure, power, and performance in the sex museum.
  • Afro-Asian musical collaboration.
  • Avant-garde performance aesthetics and the political economies of gentrification.
  • South Asian queer nightlife.
  • Black popular performance, gender, and erotic sovereignty.
  • Haitian diasporic art practices.
  • Critical clowning practices in Colombia. 

The department is housed in the Arts Circle neighborhood of the Evanston campus with newly built offices at Ryan Center for Musical Arts, a dedicated seminar room and performance studio at Annie May Swift Hall, and extensive use of teaching and performance facilities at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, which contains four theatres, costume and scene shops, dance studios, and rehearsal spaces.