The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics was conceived in 1998 by Professors Diana Taylor (NYU), Zeca Ligiéro (Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Javier Serna (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico) and Luis Peirano (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), in order to expand methodologies for analyzing embodied practice and to energize research about shared practices in the Americas. Housed within the Department of Performance Studies in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, in 1998 the Institute received an initial planning grant from the Ford Foundation. Shortly thereafter, it offered its first course (“The Conquest,” 1999) and hosted its first Encuentro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2000).
The initial impetus was to create a consortium of institutions that would house scholars interested in the intersection of performance and politics in the Americas, and to build collections of scholarly and artistic materials for research and teaching. Participants worked together to share materials and methodologies, and to build technological capacity at partner institutions to enable collaborative teaching across borders. As the initial efforts took shape, H.I. began to develop an archive of research materials and to train graduate students in a multilingual, collaborative environment. These graduate students also developed expertise in the information technologies that would enormously expand their abilities for collaborative knowledge production and for communicating their findings to hemispheric audience.
Since its inception, the Institute has developed expanding networks throughout the Americas. Beginning with the first Encuentro in Rio de Janeiro in 2000, Encuentros have been held in Monterrey, Mexico, Lima, Peru, New York City, Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in partnership with institutions such as Centro Cultural Recoleta, Uni-Rio, and UFMG, to name only a few. These conference/festivals have evolved into large-scale biannual events with close to 500 participants from across the Americas. The 2009 Encuentro will take place at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá. The Institute currently has fifteen member universities in the United States and has developed partnerships with important New York organizations like El Museo del Barrio, The Culture Project, La MaMa, and The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD). Our trilingual online journal, e-misférica, has now published nine issues, featuring original work on topics including Performance and the Law, Aboriginal Performance, Sexualities in the Americas, Affect and Performance, and Body Politics/Corpografías, enabling collaborative and comparative perspectives on performance and politics throughout the hemisphere. In 2008, H.I. inaugurated Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA, its first regional research and cultural center, located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Centro Hemisférico/FOMMA is collaboration with la Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya, a Mayan women's theater collective and NGO, and is made possible by support from NYU and the Ford Foundation.
During this time, the Institute has also built a strong administrative base at NYU. Initially a project housed in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, the Institute now benefits from the support and collaboration of several schools within NYU, including the College of Arts and Sciences and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, with participating faculty and students from Anthropology, Performance Studies, Art, Visual Studies, Cinema Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. In 2007 the Institute received an endowment from the Ford Foundation and became a University-wide initiative administratively located within the Office of the Provost.
In recent years, H.I. has also diversified its sources of support. Most important has been the grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Institute and New York University Libraries for the creation of the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL), the world's first permanent video collection of performance practices in the Americas. Along with the capacity for state-of-the-art digitization, this archive now includes over five hundred hours of digital video and trilingual supporting materials that will be available to scholars, artists, and interested audiences through its website. With support of The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Institute has recently launched the Hemispheric New York initiative. Through public performances and workshops, an emerging performers program, and collaboration with local cultural institutions, Hemispheric New York seeks to highlight the hemispheric encounters and the artistic vitality that make New York City the Americas’ greatest cultural crossroads.
Since 2007, the Hemispheric Institute is administratively housed in the Office of the Provost at New York University. It continues to receive institutional support from the Department of Performance Studies, the Tisch School of the Arts, the Faculty of Arts and Letters, and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, The Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, NYU Libraries, the NYU Humanities Council, The Office of the Dean of Global Activities, The Juan Carlos of Spain Center, and the Office of Information Technology Services.
Since its inception, the Institute has received generous support from the Ford Foundation, first from its Crossing Borders initiative and later from its program on Media, Arts and Culture. The Institute has also received support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The Institute also draws support from its member institutions in the United States, Canada and Latin America, and from the diverse cultural institutions and the thousands of scholars, artists and activists that have made its work possible since 1999.