Ann Arbor, MI — On March 30, 2001, the University of Michigan Center for World Performance Studies (CWPS) celebrated its grand opening at the International Institute, inviting the community to participate in an evening of lectures, performances and food. This month, CWPS launches a series of events to mark the milestone of its 20th anniversary, and to look ahead to the next twenty years.

Described at its founding as “a curriculum that examines the role of the performing arts and artists within a variety of cultural contexts and from numerous disciplinary perspectives,” CWPS has evolved to encompass the broader definition of “performance” embraced by scholars in the interdisciplinary field of performance studies. In addition to performing arts forms such as music, theatre and dance, students and faculty engage with performance art and multimedia; ritual, religious and political acts; and performance in everyday life and work.

The core programs have remained consistent through the years: artist residencies that bring performers and scholars from all over the world to southeast Michigan; a Graduate Fellows program that students can combine with Masters and PhD programs; funding for U-M faculty doing performance studies research; and support for events and projects on campus, particularly those hosted by student organizations. Since its founding, the mission of CWPS has placed an emphasis on centering on underrepresented, non-Western, and diasporic voices, bodies, and acts. The work of the Center over the past twenty years has consistently advanced the University’s DEI goals, by supporting diversity of artistic work and research, and by valuing diverse epistemologies or “ways of knowing.”

In recent years, CWPS has placed greater emphasis on collaborations with community partners, ranging from workshops at Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and the Ann Arbor Public Library to performances at Garage Cultural, CMAP Detroit, the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Farmers Markets. CWPS moved administrative homes in 2016, and is now housed at the Residential College, where it plans to develop rich undergraduate curricular opportunities in the future.

Read the an article from the 2001 Grand Opening. 

Learn about Alumni of our Graduate Residency program. 

Upcoming 20th Anniversary Events

CWPS 20th // Alumni in Conversation
with Mike Rahfaldt, Lani Teves, Masimba Hwati

Free & Open to the public
Registration required:

Mike Rahfaldt (PhD, Ethnomusicology ‘07) is the Executive Director of Children’s Radio Foundation, where he oversees the international operations from Cape Town, South Africa. Before joining the Children’s Radio Foundation in 2006, Michal taught media and anthropology at the University of Cape Town. As a journalist, he has contributed to Public Radio International, BBC World Service, NPR, and the New York Times.

Lani Teves (PhD, American Culture ‘12) is an Associate Professor in Women’s Studies at University of Hawaiʻi. She has written about Hawaiian hip-hop, film, and sexuality in the Pacific. She specializes in theorizing alternate forms of Kanaka Maoli gender performance and recognition politics. Her approach is informed by Indigenous feminist methodologies and ʻŌiwi epistemologies. Teves is the author of Defiant Indigeneity: The Politics of Hawaiian Performance (UNC Press 2018).

Masimba Hwati (MFA, Art, ‘19) is a multidisciplinary artist working in the intersections of sculpture video performance and sound. Hwati explores the transformation and evolution of knowledge systems that are indigenous to his own background whilst experimenting with the symbolism and perceptions attached to cultural objects, expressed as an art movement known as "The Energy of Objects". His work has been shown in Germany, France, Canada, London, the US, Australia, and Southern Africa. In 2015, he represented Zimbabwe at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale in Italy.