Performing Economies


Performing Economies is a research initiative that seeks to investigate the renewed interest in alternative economic models that has emerged in response to the effects of the global economic downturn.  Juxtaposing a concern for financial viability with the desire for social justice and environmental sustainability, Performing Economies focuses on the performative, social, and political dimensions of different approaches to the organization of labor, resources, and trade. As part of this research, historical and contemporary examples of systems of exchange are examined, with consideration to the ways in which various initiatives and paradigms build on earlier forms of barter, local currency, worker cooperatives, and mutual aid.

Central to this initiative is a sustained engagement with feminist critiques of capitalism and uneven development and an exploration of the cultural practices and creative industries seen as crucial to the revitalization of local and global economies.  Performing Economies aims to provide a setting in which to re-evaluate established economic models and consider alternatives that confront injurious patterns of debt and inequality.

Following on the heels of our spring 2014 colloquium and with a mission to encourage analysis, experimentation, and theorization, Performing Economies will serve as a platform for the development and discussion of research projects and publications by faculty and students across the University and in collaboration with the larger Buffalo community. Participation includes the departments of Art, Media Study, Geography, Anthropology, Theatre and Dance, Transnational Studies, Social Work, and History.

Future events being planned include hands-on workshops, seminars, lectures, and performances.


Our interest in facilitating a research initiative evolved through the development of the 2014 Performing Economies colloquium organized by Stephanie Rothenberg and Paige Sarlin and its correlating graduate seminar co-taught by Stephanie Rothenberg and Laina Bay-Cheng in Spring 2014. Through discussions with an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students and outside invited guests that spanned the arts, media, geography, social work and urban planning we began to shape a dialogue around the political, economic and social viability of predominant models of financialization and sustainability that was grounded in a feminist analysis of labor and an attention to the performative aspects of systems of exchange.  The process leading up to the colloquium exposed us to a range of research projects and practices that demonstrated the significance of questions of race, ethnicity, and class to the discussion of economic revitalization.  As a result, we decided to find a way to extend our engagement with these topics and our various interlocutors and collaborators beyond the frame of the three-day colloquium.