2nd Edition

Performance Autoethnography Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture

By Norman K. Denzin Copyright 2018
    324 Pages
    by Routledge

    324 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book is a manifesto. It is about rethinking performance autoethnography, about the formation of a critical performative cultural politics, about what happens when everything is already performative, when the dividing line between performativity and performance disappears. This is a book about the writing called autoethnography. It is also about what this form of writing means for writers who want to perform work that leads to social justice. Denzin’s goal is to take the reader through the history, major terms, forms, criticisms and issues confronting performance autoethnography and critical interpretive. To that end many of the chapters are written as performance texts, as ethnodramas.

    A single thesis organizes this book: the performance turn has been taken in the human disciplines and it must be taken seriously. Multiple informative performance models are discussed: Goffman’s dramaturgy; Turner’s performance anthropology; performance ethnographies by A. D. Smith, Conquergood, and Madison; Saldana’s ethnodramas; Schechter’s social theatre; Norris’s playacting; Boal’s theatre of the oppressed; and Freire’s pedagogies of the oppressed. They represent different ways of staging and hence performing ethnography, resistance and critical pedagogy. They represent different ways of "imagining, and inventing and hence performing alternative imaginaries, alternative counter-performances to war, violence, and the globalized corporate empire" (Schechner 2015).

    This book provides a systematic treatment of the origins, goals, concepts, genres, methods, aesthetics, ethics and truth conditions of critical performance autoethnography. Denzin uses the performance text as a vehicle for taking up the hard questions about reading, writing, performing and doing critical work that makes a difference.





    1. Autoethnography as Research Redux

    2. The Call to Performance

    3 . Performance Pedagogy, Culture, Politics


    4. Performance Ethnography

    5 Staging Resistance as Performance

    6. Performing Critical Pedagogy

    7. Tangled Up In Praxis


    8. The Cinematic Society and the Reflexive Interview

    9. Toward a Performative Social Science

    10. Reading and Writing Performance


    11. Grandma’s Story

    12. A Family Tradition


    13. Critical Performance Pedagogy

    14. A Relational Ethic for Performance Autoethnography

    15. CODA: In the Beginning

    Appendix A: A genealogy of terms, moments and texts




    Norman K. Denzin is Distinguished Emeritus Research Professor of Communications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. He is the author, co-author or co-editor of over 50 books and 200 professional articles and chapters. He is the past President of The Midwest Sociological Society, and the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. He is founding President of the International Association of Qualitative Inquiry (2005–) and Director of the International Center of Qualitative Inquiry (2005–). He is past editor of The Sociological Quarterly, founding co-editor of Qualitative Inquiry and founding editor of Cultural Studies  Critical Methodologies, International Review of Qualitative Research and Studies in Symbolic Interaction: A Research Annual.

    This book is Norman K. Denzin’s most political and personal work, to date. Not only does he weave his encyclopedic knowledge of multiple disciplines into a compelling tour de force manifesto about performance, he intimately reveals his autoethnographic self through poignant family memories and a morally-driven agenda. Performance Autoethnography is a vibrant tribute to the field of performance studies scholarship, and to Denzin’s advocacy of it as a vital forum for individual and social change.

    Johnny Saldaña, Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University, School of Film, Dance, and Theatre

    When I downsize, I will need only one academic book: Norman Denzin’s Performance Autoethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture, Second edition. At Last! A book that brings together diverse performance theories and practices into one genre-bending, ethically grounded, spirited text. It inspires social activist writing, reading, pedagogies and performances that can change the world into a radically just one.

    No one could have written this book but Norman Denzin. I know of no one who has his breadth of theoretical and methodological understanding of the issues facing research and teaching at this moment in history. His passion for justice, moreover, resounds on every page. Norman Denzin has deployed his incredible powers of analysis, writing, and ethical compassion. In a brilliant book, Performance Autoethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture, Second edition, Denzin transforms the autoethnographic into the performative, the performative into the political, and the political into the possibility of a radical utopia with justice and freedom for all. The book’s accomplishments are breath-taking.

    This would be my Number 1 choice for any course in qualitative research, performance studies, sociology of culture, political sociology, visual arts, theater or the foundations of education. Rather than dividing disciplines into tidy boxes, Denzin has shown how these boxes are porous. Acting from a shared critical performance perspective, they can engage the world’s problems and work towards a radically just utopia. Everyone is invited to help change the world! Sometimes you just have to wait for what you need and want. I have needed and wanted an accessible way to connect-the-dots---theory, methods, social activism---that could resonate with students, traditional colleagues, and dubious friends. I have waited for this book. The wait is over. Thanks, Norman.

    Laurel Richardson, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

    Denzin’s critical performance authoethnography suggests a critical performance pedagogy, which, in turn, creates spaces for a "more humane, pluralistic, and just racial order." He thus sets a tall order for himself—to critically examine the murky spaces of social and structural injustice and racial inequality through memory, story, and performance, all while making an urgent plea for a turn from performance to social justice. He delivers beautifully, masterfully, on his promise to make a strong case for a critically-informed performance autoethnography as socially transformative research praxis.

    Christopher N. Poulos, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    In Performance Autoethnography, Norman Denzin advances a broad visionary agenda for the future of the interpretive human sciences. Laying theory and method on the line, Denzin anticipates and encourages refined and new forms of representation and expression that can at once embody and convey the dramaturgical nature of existence in ways that are absorbing, ethical, honest, and artful. Performance Autoethnography is a manifesto that appeals to the conscience of the social sciences. At stake is the future of critical performance autoethnography. Denzin seeks nothing less than a broadened autoethnographic science of heart and soul that seeks to transcend its own particularity in the pursuit of social justice and in the name of a politics of healing and hope. The problems of our age—this moment in human history—make this book and its politics of hope more urgent than ever as we seek to produce meaning, dignity, and justice for the exiled, the banished, and the oppressed, and for all of us engaged in the struggle for open, civil, free, and humane democratic societies. Denzin’s Performance Autoethnography is as much about feeling as it is about seeing, as much about listening as it is about talking, as much about the human sciences as moral, ethical, ideological, and political as it is about their ontological status as sciences of brute data, as much about hearing voices that have been shrouded in secrecy as it is about the absence of imagination in what passes for social science. Denzin wants social scientists to open their hearts as well as their heads and to listen attentively to stories that feel raw, cut deep, and resist distance and abstraction. What is needed, Denzin shows, is dramaturgical and autoethnographic forms of inquiry and representation that can bring audiences and readers into dialogue and encounter with the otherness of others and of themselves.

    Arthur P. Bochner, University of South Florida, Distinguished University Professor, NCA Distinguished Scholar

    Experience Denzin’s sociological imagination as he brings together ideas developed in the last five decades on critical performative inquiry and the values of a feminist communitarianism. In this thoroughly researched collage of stories, scripts, and essays, he demonstrates an autoethnography that redefines the political, cultural, moral, and ethical in performative, pedagogical, critical, and relational terms. With this text, he contributes a hopeful qualitative ethic that inspires us all to do our part for social justice and freedom.

    Carolyn Ellis, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Communication, University of South Florida