Hi! I am Jasmine Mahmoud, Postdoctoral Fellow of Inequality and Identity in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. My work examines how aesthetics, race, and policy influence urban geographies. I also write and teach about black aesthetics, acts of activism, and urban ethnography. I am very happy to be part of the JUCS team, and hope to bring an attention to how performance practices, aesthetics, and race animate the making of urban space.
Trained in Performance Studies, I center the study of performance practices (artistic, cultural, and everyday embodied actions) to study processes of urban development such as “renewal,” displacement, and gentrification. My dissertation, “Avant-Garde Frontiers in the Austere City: Political Economics of Artistic Placemaking in the Post-Millennial United States,” investigated contemporary performance practices (such as experimental theater and performance art) in urban margins. It examined how performance aesthetics interacted with race, policy, and processes of displacement in New York, Chicago, and Seattle, three arts-rich cities, during and after the Great Recession. This study relied upon ethnographic interviews with artists, venue owners, and policymakers; ethnographic observations of artistic practice; and analysis of policy and discourse. A cultural history attentive to aesthetics, race, and urban experiences, the dissertation suggested that artistic performance may not only be considered an aesthetic and economic practice, but also a geographic practice that produces aesthetic and racial meanings of space. Publications arising from this research include “Brooklyn’s Experimental Frontiers: A Performance Geography,” published in 2014 in the “Performing the City” special issue of TDR: The Drama Review, and “An uncharted persistence: Alternative minoritarian theater in Chicago” published in the 2017 anthology edited by Chinua Thelwell, Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World. I am currently revising the dissertation into a first book project, Avant-garde Geographies: Race, Policy, and Experimentation in the Urban Margins.
Since living in St. Louis, I’ve begun to work on my second book project, Acts of Black Citizenship: Performance and Politics in St. Louis in the Era of Black Lives Matter. Based on ethnographic interviews and observations, this project centers performance and aesthetic acts by black artists in St. Louis to understand local and national questions of citizenship and politics. A few months ago, I participated in Neighborhoods United for Change, an anti-segregation initiative bridging black neighborhoods with white neighborhoods in St. Louis. I wrote about this experience for The Common Reader.
This semester, I am teaching “Urban Ethnography in St. Louis.” This course trains students to observe and document life in St. Louis with an attention to race, space, and processes of displacement and development; I hope to bring lessons from this course to JUCS. In particular, I am interested in documenting questions of and approaches to urban cultural studies pedagogies. Thank you for reading!