Interview with Kay Turner, conducted by Diana Taylor, founding director 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.
Kay Turner holds a PhD in folklore and anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her areas of specialization are women's performed folklore (especially in the arenas of oral narrative, folk religion, and material culture) and feminist and lesbian/gay/queer interpretations of folklore and popular culture. She is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Performance Studies Department at New York University and she is also based at the Brooklyn Arts Council, where she is the Folk Arts Director. Professor Turner works as the folklorist for the Borough of Brooklyn, researching and presenting the diverse folk arts and artists of Brooklyn. She annually produces a September 11th memorial project; in September 2006 she curated Here Was New York: Twin Towers in Memorial Images, and in September 2007, September 11th Remembered in Film. In March 2008, she produced Brooklyn Maqam: Arab Music Festival, a major presentation project on Arab music traditions in Brooklyn, held in venues throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Professor Turner’s publications include Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women's Altars (Thames and Hudson 1999); Between Us: A Legacy of Lesbian Love Letters (Chronicle Books 1996); and Baby Precious Always Shines (St. Martin’s Press 1999), an edited selection of love notes between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Currently, she is working on a long essay concerning ephemerality and September 11th and a new book project, Transgressive Tales: Rethinking the Grimms' Fairy Tales from Feminist and Queer Perspectives. She is the co-founder of the lezzie rock band Girls in the Nose, based in Austin, TX from 1985-1996. Her current musical projects include NYC-based Snaggletooth with NYU medievalist Dr. Carolyn Dinshaw, and Medusabulldozer, a group with she works in Athens, GA.