Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



In this study, I explore four events to learn the embedded instructions of selfhood performatives in each case and how these performatives code public and private space and experience. The selected events offer a different and explicit example of private and public modes of authority and access – e.g., in the public museum experience of an exhibit by photographer Taryn Simon, in the gift of a ticket to Burning Man, womyn only at MichFest, and insider exclusivity at Roden Crater. While each event offered a different understanding of selfhood as it applied to the participant, each confirmed a selfhood performative in play through its structure, methodology, and dependence on participation. Calling on Louis Althusser’s theories of subjectivity and ideology to approach a definition for selfhood performative, ultimately I argue for a Bakhtinian use of the term. Bakhtin relies on an expansive definition where “selfhood is not a particular voice within, but a particular way of combining many voices within” (Morson and Emerson 221). This “particular way” can be understood as a conscious compositional approach to selfhood served by the performance research practice of mystory developed by Gregory Ulmer. The mystory attempts to record and articulate the relationships of the composer and her interdependent institutional and personal subjectivities through the application of the relay. Throughout the study, I make use of a literal and figurative relay between the events, composing, collecting, and documenting associations while conducting my research and drawing out the patterns and poetics therein. The purpose of the study is to show connections between selfhood performatives and commodification, and to find regularities, ironies, and pleasures between the revealed performatives and codes. I also examine how these events enhance, challenge, or stray from post-structural theories that support the interdependence between selfhood and prevailing concepts of public and private. The study also supports the application of mystory theory, with its resistance to the reproductive elements of a model, as performance research that offers an update to Brecht’s notion of theater “for an audience of the scientific age” (Brecht 185). I attempt to locate today’s audience as one situated in the tension of constructing selves between binary notions of private and public caused by the ramifications of scientific objectification and conceptual representation and reproduction. I argue the mystory is an approach to understanding the self constituted from within the interdependence of private and public relationships, and holds the unrepeatable self central to that approach.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Bowman, Ruth Laurion



Included in

Communication Commons