COOL CLASSES: “Site-Work: Place-making and Performance Practice”

An English course considers the way in which site work functions as a form of activist art.

Class name: “Site-Work: Place-making and Performance Practice”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of English Jaclyn Pryor


Here’s what Pryor had to say about the class:

Site work, or site-specific work, are terms that describe theater, performance, and visual art that have been created for or somehow situated in relationship to place. Historically, site artists have situated work in places as diverse as city streets, deserts, beaches, on farms, at rodeos, on the U.S./Mexico border, in abandoned and commercial buildings, on the internet, in homes, and aboard trains, buses, and boats. This course introduces students to other artists who are working in this genre, to the central theories and debates within the field, and to the specific tools and methods for making their own site-specific performances.

I created this class because I wanted to teach a course at the intersections of performance theory and performance practice—I believe that the deepest kind of learning happens when students take risks with their own bodies and imaginations. Outside of my own research and teaching, I also work as a theater artist, and much of the work that I am drawn to making is site-specific.

This is because I am interested in the politics of identity (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.), and that of history and memory: site-specific performance has a unique capacity to make visible what is otherwise invisible in public culture—because the event literally unfolds in/on a charged site. For instance, last week in class we created a short, improvised performance in the hallway of Stokes—and as part of the performance we literally recited the text from a poster that was hanging in the hallway outside the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship about the racialized history of Haverford College. That text was taken out of its original context and recited (re-sited) in our performance. So the piece was site-specific not only because it took place in a building that is not intended for performance—but because it engaged the actual history of that site. Site work is always citational. And that’s exciting to me as an artist and a thinker—and my hope is that it will unlock something for my students, as well.


See what other courses the English department is offering this semester.

Photo by Caleb Eckert ’17

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.