Blog Post #3: Readings (Munoz and Dolan)

It’s been such a long time since I’ve read or thought about Jose Munoz’s “Disidentifications” reading, but here goes nothing. From what I understand, disidentifying means to move away from definitions of identities that are traditionally given to something or someone, and creating new forms of those identities that better suit them. I feel like this could mean updating definitions that are outdated/offensive to more currently politically correct ones, or just that the definitions of words of identification change over time and need to be reconsidered in their new meanings. The word “queer” comes to mind, as it used to be a slur against the LGBTQ+ community and now it has been reclaimed and is used proudly by many individuals in said community. On page 1, Munoz states that “the act of performing and theatricalizing queerness in public takes on ever multiplying significance” (emphasis included). When queer people or people of color (or queer people of color) get to perform their identities onstage, it allows them to disidentify with whatever traditional, stereotypical ideas that audiences may have of them or their characters, and form new identities however they choose to do so. This puts the power in the hands and actions of the performers to rewrite their identities to be more accurate to how they view themselves, rather than how other people may view them.

Jill Dolan’s “Utopia in Performance” looks at the other side of this, the perspective and experiences of the audience rather than those of the performers. The utopia of performance that Dolan talks about is the experience of people coming together into the same room to have a shared experience of what they are watching happen onstage. During this time, they are removed from their real-life selves and exist in an imaginary space that only exists for a fixed amount of time, and this creates a sort of community amongst theatregoers. Additionally, the theater provides a space for people to experiment with different realities, ones that are different from their own lived experiences and that may be more positive than what they are facing in the real world. Hence, the utopia. This article reminds me of something I was told at a theater I worked at in high school: something along the lines of “art is a platform upon which society must examine itself.” This ties back to Munoz’s idea of disidentification; if people see something onstage that they do not like the portrayal of, they have the power to redefine those things in other productions, thus bringing to life new ways of categorizing things that perhaps did not exist before. While Dolan’s analysis makes sense, the one critique that I have of her utopic experience is that it is entirely based off of her own experiences in the theater. While I personally do not disagree with her and also believe that the moments that exist during live performance are indeed special, I do take issue with the fact that she does not take into consideration alternate experiences that people may have; she focuses solely on own perspective, which is fine for an essay, just not an academic one.

Leave a Reply