Laurie Frederik

Laurie Frederik Meer
Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies
Academic Rank: 
Associate Professor
2816 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Laurie Frederik is associate professor of performance studies in TDPS and is director of the Latin American Studies Center. She is also an active affiliate faculty member in the Department of Anthropology. Her first book, Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, published by Duke University Press, received Honorable Mention for Outstanding Book of 2012 by ATHE. It is based on over a decade of ethnographic research, including two and a half years living in some of Cuba’s most remote mountainous areas called “zones of silence” in Santa Clara and Guantánamo Provinces. She continues to conduct research in and about Cuba.  

Frederik recently co-edited a volume titled Showing Off, Showing Up: Studies of Hype, Heightened Performance, and Cultural Power, coming out with University of Michigan Press in spring 2017. In it, Frederik writes about the judgment of social audiences, competition, and about how “showing” has political agency in the world. She also contributes an auto-ethnographic chapter that analyzes race and nationality in Latin dance.

Her newest research explores genres of true storytelling performance as social activism and production of cultural identity. In this project, she examines truth, testimony, and translation in legal culture and courtrooms of the United States and Puerto Rico.

Frederik teaches classes on the anthropology of art, ethnographic method, the role of artists and intellectuals in society, political ritual, subversive culture and social protest, national identity, censorship, creativity, and the performativity of law and justice.


Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago, 2007
B.A. Honors (MA equiv), Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 1993
B.A. Anthropology, University of Virginia 1990, summa cum laude
School for International Training, Kenya and Tanzania, 1990

Areas of Specialization/Interest:

Cuba, Caribbean, Latin America, African Diaspora, East and South Africa, anthropology of art, performance studies, ethnography, politics, nationalism, subversive culture, artistic and cultural narrative, law and legal testimony

Professional Affiliations:

Affiliate Faculty member, Anthropology
Affiliate Faculty member, Latin American Studies
Affiliate Faculty member, Ethnomusicology
Affiliate Faculty member, Women's Studies
Performance Studies International (PSi)
Latin American Studies Association (LASA)
Law and Society Association (LSA)
Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA)
American Anthropological Association (AAA)
Association for Theater in Higher Education (ATHE)
American Society for Theater Research (ASTR)

Representative Publications/Research Activities:


“Rituals of Law and the Human Evolution of Might and Right,” chapter in Theatre, Performance, and Cognitive Science, co-edited by Bruce McConachie and Richard Kemp. Routledge Press (submitted to editors)

“Poetic Imaginings of the ‘Real’ Guantânamo (No, Not the Base),” in Guantánamo and the Empire of Freedom, edited by Jessica Adams and Don Walicek (manuscript under press review)

Showing Off, Showing Up: Studies of Hype, Heightened Performance, and Cultural Power, first editor with co-editors Kim Marra and Catherine Schuler (University of Michigan Press 2017)

   -- “Introduction" to in Showing Off, Showing Up (University of Michigan Press 2017) 

   -- “Painting the Body Brown and Other Lessons on How to Dance Latin,” in Showing Off, Showing Up (University of Michigan Press 2017) 

Review of Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, Voice, Spectacle in the Making of Race and History, by Kristina Wirtz (New West Indian Guide, August 2016)

Review of volume of works by Dwight Conquergood - Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis, edited by E. Patrick Johnson (Theatre Journal, October 2014)

Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba (Duke University Press, 2012). Awarded Honorable Mention for Best Book of 2012 by ATHE

"La Batalla for Cuban Identity: Option Zero Theater," in The Special Period: Cuban Culture and Ideology in the 1990's (Palgrave 2008)

"Playback Theatre in Cuba: the Politics of Improvisation and Free Expression" (The Drama Review 2007)

“Una Experiencia Antropologica: El Guajiro a los Cuatro Vientos,” (Revista Tablas, 2007)

"Cuba's National Characters: Setting the Stage for the Hombre Novísimo" (Journal of Latin American Anthropology 2005)

"The Contestation of Cuba's Public Sphere in National Theater and the Transformation from Teatro Bufo to Teatro Nuevo" (Gestos 2001)

 “Una mirada dento del trabajo colectivo de Teatro de los Elementos” (Conjunto: Revista de Teatro Latinamericano, April/June 2000)

Research Grants and Fellowships:

•    Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation Grant – Professional Research Symposium
•    Research and Scholarship Award (RASA), UMD
•    General Research Board Grant (GRB), UMD
•    University of Notre Dame Pre-Doctoral Writing and Teaching Fellowship
•    Fulbright-Hayes Doctoral Research Fellowship
•    Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation Fellowship
•    Spencer Foundation Research Grant
•    Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant
•    John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Grant
•    Rotary International Graduate Ambassadorial Scholarship to South Africa

Creative Activities

4-time U.S. National Champion in Ballroom and Latin Dancesport
storyteller with Speakeasy DC and The Stoop of Baltimore
Playback Theatre practitioner
musical theater practitioner
dancer in UMD production, The Ash Girl
collaborator and actor in UMD devised production, Sandwalk