Cultural performance theory offers an approach for understanding culture within the activity of everyday life. It serves as a means to conceptualize culture by placing culture at the center of hegemonic, or dominating, messages and revealing the hierarchical structure of society through lived experience. Performance is foundational to the study of human communication. Performance has no singular definition, nor is it situated in any singular discipline of study. Performance offers value and insight to theater studies and to social sciences, and it can be viewed through the lens of cultural and critical studies. Performance theory views humans as Homo narrans, or creatures who communicate through stories as a way of crafting their social world and making meaning of it.

Performance implies an act of doing, practice, and theatricality, while simultaneously encompassing both the subject of research and the method of doing research. Created from perspectives on human behavior, culture, and ritual, cultural performance theory explores the relationship between the foundations of human experience: community, culture, and performance. It also serves as a challenge to traditional theory by bringing together differing domains of knowledge—the objective, scientific, and observable—with the embodied, practical, and everyday. Cultural performance theory radicalizes, or identifies as the root issue, the binary opposition between theory and practice by providing a model of communicative practice in which culture and performance are inextricably joined and integral to the communal experience of everyday life.

The term cultural performance refers to discrete events, or cultural performances that can be observed and understood in any cultural structure. These events include, for example, traditional theater and dance, concerts, recitations, religious festivals, weddings, and funerals, all of which possess certain characteristics: limited time span, a beginning and an end, a set of performers, an audience, a place and occasion, and an organized program of activity. This approach to cultural performances would later influence anthropological and theatrical theory in the 1970s and give rise to the study of folklore from the perspective of culture and performance.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Edwina Ayu Kustiawan