Margaret Werry

Margaret Werry

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2010/11

Margaret Werry is Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. She is an interdisciplinary scholar trained in Performance Studies (PhD Northwestern University, 2001), who works across the fields of Theatre, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, and Cultural History. Her forthcoming book, The Tourist State: Performing Leisure, Liberalism, and the Racial Imagination (University of Minnesota Press) examines the relationship between tourism, performance, indigenous politics, and liberal state-making, looking at cultural policy and tourism practice in the South Pacific at the turn of the twentieth century, and the turn of the twenty-first. She has published on this topic and on others—critical and experimental pedagogy, spatial theory, intercultural performance, photographic criticism, multi-media performance, cinema, museology, and cultural policy—in a range of US and international journals. She is also an actor, dramaturge, and performance artist and has worked with Chicago companies Lookinglass Theatre and Naked Eye.

Research Project

Performing the Virtual Pacific: Oceans, Indigenes, Motion, Modernity

This project examines the global circulation of Polynesian performance forms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focusing on popular theatre and para-theatrical sites such as World’s Fairs, celebrity and diplomatic tours, travelogue cinema, missionary pedagogy and tourism entertainment. It examines the performance rhetorics of cultural and popular diplomacy, and in the ways in which the globalizing culture industries of this era operated as an informal mechanism of emergent internationalism. How did traveling performances create the condition of opportunity for indigenous perspectives to be circulated in metropolitan space and alternative visions of global modernity to be proposed? And how did performance allow indigenous actors to forge networks of allegiance and influence, to lend visibility and validity to political claims disqualified by the formal politics of the nation-state system? Chapters trace the dissemination and hybridization of Pacific performance with European and North American forms, speculating that this process established aesthetic affinities and cultural pathways—song-lines, if you will—that would become significant in the later twentieth century, in the emergence of global indigenist movements, on the one hand, and American Pacific imperialism, on the other. Concluding chapters of the project will examine the legacy of this era (evidenced in the contemporary Asia-Pacific festival circuit and in pan-indigenous cultural revival and exchange enterprises), and will develop theoretical propositions about the ontology of performance-as-mobility, the Oceanic geo-political imagination, and performance’s powers of political virtualization.

Selected Publications

  • Werry, M., The Tourist State: Performing Leisure, Liberalism, and Race in New Zealand, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 
  • Werry, M., “Interdisciplinary Objections, Oceanic Insights: Performance and the New Materialism,” in H. Bial and S. Magelssen (eds.) Theatre Historiography: Critical Interventions, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.
  • Werry, M. and O’Gorman, R., “Under the seat of knowledge: a photo essay on failure,” in Transformations, vol. 20, no. 1, 2009, pp. 47-77. 
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