Stages of Whiteness: Marking Power and Privilege in U.S. and German Popular Performance
University of Kansas
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Stages of Whiteness: Marking Power and Privilege in U.S. and German Popular Performance examines white, male playwrights, television evangelists, and game show hosts and producers on what I am defining as three “performance stages” found within 21st century American and German popular theatre and entertainment. These performances have remained unmarked as white to white people; they remain opaque to them and have persisted into this century as spaces not affected by constructions of race. They remain “just performances.” The dissertation explains how everyday people— audiences— learn to see, hear, and protect whiteness as a universal subject position, as represented through the patterns of storytelling, narrative structure, and binaries of winning and losing. Each “performance stage” has specific audiences that encapsulate lower, middle and upper-class white consumers. These stages, I contend, are used to distribute narratives that warn new audiences against the changing racial, economic, and socio-cultural conditions that have challenged white male patriarchy. This project is a result of four trips to Germany to visit theatre spaces in Berlin, multiple visits to New York archives and theatre spaces, a visit to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church in Houston, Texas, and a visit to Los Angeles to attend tapings of game shows, including The Price is Right, on which I was a contestant. Methodologically, as I engage with archives and live performance, I lean upon auto-ethnography where I use my own subject position as a white, Queer man from Southeastern, Pennsylvania to see these places anew and to describe how whiteness, once invisible to me in work as a theater artist, emerging scholar and consumer, became racialized to me as “white.” I am marking my position as a white, Queer male to unsettle impulses towards objectivity and universality associated with white male playwrights and their stories which dominate American and German theater landscapes . In addition to my own subject position, I analyze these performances through theories of race and performance and dramatic analysis. The dissertation identifies comparable sites in theater, religious television programming, and game shows in the U.S. and Germany that source their values in tropes from the Germanic Enlightenment. I track how totalizing Enlightenment binaries of good and bad, inside and outside, God and the Devil, and ultimately winning and losing migrate across national borders and have become reproduced and preserved in new spaces.
- Dissertations 
- Theatre Scholarly Works 
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