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Masks connote an ontology linked to identity and the possibility of being. But they are also shaped by human to human interaction, i.e. they are socially driven and shaped by politics. Masks enact a foundational performance. They draw attention to the masquerade structuring identity.

Masquerades have always been a relevant cultural element, assuming diverse meanings and functions along the history of humanity. Common to season and religious festivals, ceremonies and rituals of initiation or death, carnival festivals and balls, masquerades have always inspired the production of meaning in human societies. From theater to dance, literature and the visual arts, the masquerade and its representation connote at once exposure and (dis)simulation. They are arguably cultural mechanisms that structure the becoming of a subject. 

Under current conditions, we live at a time of masks, tapping simultaneously into obfuscation, secrecy and protection. Masks suggest a reflection on cultural experience as a masquerade. The XII Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture proposes to discuss, on the one hand, processes of masking and unmasking, the collective models of the masquerade as a cultural, literary and artistic genre, as well as a translational mode. On the other, the masquerade, following the inspiration of Joan de Riviere, reflects as well on the process of performative engendering. The Summer School shall equally discuss the masquerade as a strategy of gender performativity and gender as a performance, mirrored in new identities. Drawing from Judith Butler’s seminal theory of performativity (1988, 1990, 2011), and “playing” with the transformative character of masquerades, participants are invited to reflect on why and how bodies and language matter when subversive body formations are under threat, and on the very nature of the relation between subversion and the normal. Simultaneously, we invite intersectional work articulating cultural forms of the masquerade with modes of identity formation, including race, gender, age and class.

The Lisbon Consortium

Universidade Católica Portuguesa | School of Human Sciences

Palma de Cima
1649-023 Lisbon