Interview with Barbara Browning, conducted by Diana Taylor, director and founder of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. This interview is a part of a series curated by the Hemispheric Institute, articulated around the question 'What is Performance Studies?' The series aims to provide a multifaceted approach to the often difficult task of defining the coordinates of both a field of academic study as well as a lens through which to assess and document cultural practice and embodied behavior. The contingent definitions documented in this series are based on the groundbreaking experiences and the scholarly endeavors of renowned figures in contemporary performance studies and practice.
Barbara Browning is Associate Professor in the Performance Studies Department at New York University, where she previously was Chair. She received her Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Comparative Literature from Yale University. In 1983 she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship for the study of popular literature in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Browning’s first book, Samba: Resistance in Motion (Indiana University Press 1995), was the winner of the De la Torre Bueno Prize for an outstanding work of dance scholarship. She is also the author of Infectious Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the Spread of African Culture (Routledge 1998). Her articles have appeared in anthologies, as well as such publications as Dance Research Journal, TDR, Dance Chronicle, and Women & Performance. She serves on the boards of directors of both the Congress of Research on Dance and the Society of Dance History Scholars. Browning is also a member of the editorial board of Women & Performance and the advisory board of the Dance Research Journal.
Professor Browning is also trained as a dancer, and her practical training in Brazilian dance was greatly amplified during her Fulbright year in Bahia, which led to her further study, instruction, and performance of Brazilian dance in Brazil, the United States, and Europe. She performed for several years with both the Loremil Machado Afro-Brazilian Dance Company and Silvana Magda's Viva Bahia. While no longer performing professionally, she continues to merge practical engagement of body practices with her scholarly work, which broadly addresses performance and politics in the African diaspora.