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What is performance?




What is performance debate?


Just a little over a year ago I was called a "project debater", then since the summer of this season I've been called a performance debater? The questions that I have is what makes a performance debater different from a regular debater, and what makes a regular debater not a performance debater? Isn't all debate a performance?


Over the summer Ryan Wash from Emporia State told us during a lecture at the Nebraska Debate Institute that a Performance debater is no different than a regular old K debater, it was just a name that was given to debaters like him. It would seem that their are two justifications within the community that I've noticed for being called a "Performance Debater": The first of which would be the K debater who goes all out, I'm talking 1 off style K debaters who can go a whole year without having to cut a single politics update, and is willing to act a fool in a debate round/speech. The second justification I've seen is for K debaters who like to sing, rap, play music, talk about structural violence, identity or whiteness... who would carry themselves in a different manner or act different from other debate teams. Should we perhaps call into question what the reasoning for this process of naming is? For example, is it possible for someone to run whiteness, or structural violence arguments, maybe even go one off for a whole year and not be called a performance debater? I have yet to see so...


I think that a part of discovering the meaning of a performance debater is lies within discovering what it means to perform. What is to say that the act of reading fast and speaking in jargon isn't a performance? Or could it be that a Performance means presenting things in a way that isn't status quo, maybe that means putting yourself out there in a way that is different, the willingness to sing, dance, rap, stomp and clap your hands and present arguments in a way that is germane to yourself rather than the rest of the world. From this we have a sort of double standard, you could see the title as two things, either the title is given to glorify a given debater for the way they present arguments, or it can be used to tokenize debaters for the type of argument they chose to represent themselves with.


So at the end of this post I still have no clue what it really means to be a performance debater, but perhaps we should critically view the title and question the reasons behind it whether that justification be a positive or negative reason behind bestowing that title upon a given debater, team, or squad.


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