This course explores the social phenomenon of performance and its theoretical value to the humanities. We will see how thinking of and with performance can help us investigate social behaviour, individual and collective identity, and embodied knowledge. We will situate the discipline of performance studies within its historical context in the late-twentieth century and trace its development through early twenty-first century. The course will focus on three recurring themes: the relationship between representation and performance, which will help us understand social behaviour; the paradigm of performativity, which is significant to theorizing identity; and the debate between whether performance is an ephemeral or enduring phenomenon, which is central to conceptualizing embodied knowledge. We will see, in short, how performance—as object, method, and analytic—can help us understand societies and cultures by focusing on acts of doing, ways of being, and modes of knowing. We will read JL Austin, Diana Taylor, Richard Schechner, Victor Turner, Uma Chakravarti, Susan Sontag, Erving Goffman, Judith Butler, Clifford Geertz, Sharmila Rege, Richard Bauman, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Aparna Dharwadker, and Paulla Ebron. We will also engage with performances and playtexts such as Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug, Maya Rao’s Walk, David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, and Mahesh Dattani’s Dance like a Man.