Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Michael Bowman


Building upon the scholarly tradition that performance is a valuable pedagogical tool, I documented how six performers developed personal awareness, critical consciousness, and the ability to take action as a result of participating in a performance process. I designed a three-stage performance process. During the first phase of the process, focus group discussions, participants exhibited little awareness of their specific eating habits or the cultural constructedness of those habits. As they completed the first phase, they became more aware of their behaviors, and they began to identify food's social function. At the second stage, rehearsal sessions, six performers began to enact their understanding of eating and body image. By watching videotapes of the focus group discussions, performers established distance between their behaviors and the behaviors of others in order to critique and contest their observations. They enacted those ideas by following activities that Augusto Boal outlined in his theories of "Theatre of the Oppressed." At this point performers recognized how their own behaviors were inextricably interwoven with social norms and standards, and they prepared to act upon their understandings. During the third phase, public performance, performers tested their ideas in a public forum. Not only had performers developed critical consciousness, but they became agents who could take critical action. I also documented the types of knowledge performers obtained. In addition to developing personal awareness, all performers changed their eating habits or how they regarded the habits of others. Some began a more critical examination of how cultural norms influenced individual behaviors. Others increased their levels of self disclosure, or they developed appreciation for the performance process or group interaction. Chapters two through four include a summary of the process and of the types of information performers acquired during each phase. In the final chapter, I summarize the performance process, evaluate performance as a type of critical pedagogy, and suggest areas for further research. Appendices include a body image survey, experiment consent form, a list of topics used for the focus group discussions, a description of the performers, and the script for the public performance.