Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MFA in Dance


Dance Graduate Program


Examining the location and presence of personal history and identity, specifically trauma, this thesis explores depiction and approaches to trauma in live performance alongside theories of abstraction, disinterestedness, and depersonalization. Using Kant’s notion of disinterestedness, along with Arlene Croce’s review of Bill T. Jones’ work Still/Here (1994) and her introduction of the term “victim art” as a jumping off point, this thesis asks: What is the relationship of art and trauma? Who is ‘allowed’ to make what art? What stories, bodies, and identities are seen on stage, which ones are left out of the western dance canon? What it is about the specific medium of the body that complicates the idea put forward by Kant, and upheld by Croce, of a universal subjective experience? What is the relationship between form and content, the subject and how it is being structured/presented? Bringing together body art from the 1970s, written and performed work produced during and in response to the AIDS epidemic, performance work from the 2000s, and psychological research around PTSD, this paper moves in and out of theory, history, and personal narrative as a way to interrogate the idea of a universal identity and ask questions around the value and role of abstraction in art from modernism to the present.