Lines of Activity

Performance, Historiography, Hull-House Domesticity
Shannon Jackson
Applies the interdisciplinary insights of performance studies to the life of Chicago's Hull-House settlement


Lines of Activity investigates the cultural life of the Hull-House Settlement of Chicago, one of the most significant reform institutions of the Progressive Era, from its founding in 1889 through its growth into a major social service institution. The study focuses specifically on the role of performance—not only theatrical representation, but also athletics, children's games, story-telling, festivals, living museums, and the practices of everyday life—to demonstrate how such cultural rituals could propel social activism at Hull-House and paradoxically serve as vehicles for both cultural expression and cultural assimilation.

This groundbreaking book demonstrates how performance analysis can contribute to the historical study of American reform as well as to critical inquiry on the arts and social change. She develops connections between performativity and sex/gender difference by interpreting Hull-House as a sphere of queer kinship and alternative gender performance. Lines of Activity also engages a variety of debates on the nature of historical representation, and the role of "theory" in historical writing.

As the notion of "performance historiography" gains currency, Jackson's study exposes the gender politics of such scholarly trends. By selecting the Progressive Era and Hull-House as arenas of inquiry, Jackson foregrounds how past discourses of domesticity, pragmatism, transnationalism, and environmentalism already contain performance-centered notions of identity, space, and community. Through these and other arguments, Lines of Activity reveals the intimate connection between a history of Hull-House performance and the performance of Hull-House history.

Shannon Jackson is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and of Dramatic Art and Dance, University of California, Berkeley.

Praise / Awards

  • "Lines of Activity constitutes a brilliant and original rewriting of the history of Hull House, the Progressive movement's single most important institution. Historians have written volumes about Jane Addams and Hull House-both are icons of American women's history. Yet Shannon Jackson manages to cast them in an altogether fresh and bracing light. Based on rigorous research and subtle readings of cultural theory, her book delivers on its promise: it uses performance to provide a new 'framework for understanding the fundamentals of reform.' I have been struggling in my own work to shift the emphasis from product to process and to understand the cultural dimensions of social work. What I learned from Lines of Activity will affect everything I write about the American reform tradition in the years to come."
    —Jacquelyn Hall, University of North Carolina
  • "Lines of Activity is likely to be the most important book in the field of performance history of the next decade. It speaks to one of the of the key issues in performance studies—the competing role of memory and history in experiencing the past as part of the tangible present and imagined future—while simultaneously advancing a pathbreaking method of research in the field. It also revisits a remarkable scene of Progressive Era history in Chicago from a new perspective. Lines of Activity is an inspiring look ahead into the future of performance research on the cusp of the arts and human sciences."
    —Joseph Roach, Yale University
  • "By far the most remarkable and insightful book ever written about Jane Addams and Hull-House. Jackson's recognition and detailed account of the centrality of performance and performativity to the work of settlement house advocacy and to the acculturation of immigrants strikes at the heart of what Hull-House sought to accomplish, and dramatizes the unique, risk-taking vitality of Addams and her colleagues as no other scholar has done."
    —Lawrence Buell, Harvard University
  • "Lines of Activity offers. . . dozens of perceptive insights that will alter and enrich the way anyone interested in Hull-House encounters future work on the subject, or thinks about what they already believe they know. . . . The texture of everyday life in the settlement emerges clearly from Jackson's wonderfully humane treatment of the women and men who inhabited these spaces. . . . Jackson has an appealing intellectual curiosity that is seasoned by a thoughtful empathy for her historical subjects; her own warmth and compassion for the men and women of the Nineteenth Ward then and now are as compelling as her scholarly analysis of them."
    —Marla Miller, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Autumn 2001
  • ". . . astounding in its scope and in its implications for the making of history. . . . Jackson fleshes out many of Hull-House's everyday practices that have not been fully explored in traditional histories, which have measured the success of Hull-House in terms of legislation passed and national or local social service institutions generated. Jackson's performance historiography allows her to interweave a variety of nineteenth-century and contemporary theories and gives the experience of 'settling' much of the complexity that it must have had for Addams."
    -Modern Drama
  • " Lines of Activity makes an invaluable contribution to the historiography on Jane Addams and Hull-House and to the growing field of performance studies."
    —Jane Blocker, Theatre Journal, October 2001
  • Honorable Mention: 2002 John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association

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Copyright © 2000, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4.
  • 384pp.
  • 36 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08791-4

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  • $34.95 U.S.