Performance

The word performance is often traced to the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman and Middle French word parfournir, which means “to carry out,” “to fulfill,” “to accomplish,” or “to execute” (OED; Turner [1982] 1992, 13). Later, in the sixteenth century, the word became associated with mimesis, or bodily imitation, mimicry, or repetition. Today, the word performance carries the legacy of these apparently contradictory meanings. Performance can refer, in the older sense, to performing an action, to completing an operation—that is, to making something, to causing something to exist. We invoke this meaning when we speak of “performing one’s duties” or of a worker’s “high performance.” In the newer sense, however, performance can refer to theater, to acting. Performance scholar Richard Schechner (2013) has pithily described these distinct meanings as “making” and “faking” (Turner [1982] 1992, 93). Both these meanings—separately and together—have profound implications for the study of childhood.

To think …

This essay may be found on page 139 of the printed volume.

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