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 and ethnography and an active affiliate member in Department of Anthropology and Latin American Studies Center. Dr. Frederik teaches classes on the anthropology of art and performance, ethnographic method, political ritual, subversive culture and social protest, national identity, censorship, creativity, and the performativity of law and justice.

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 and its turbulent relations with the United States. This book has been translated into Spanish and submitted for publication in 2020.
Frederik co-edited a volume with Kim Marra and Catherine Schuler titled Showing Off, Showing Up: Studies of Hype, Heightened Performance, and Cultural Power, published by University of Michigan Press in 2017. In this book, Frederik writes about the judgment of social audiences, the aesthetic pressures of competition, and how “showing” has political agency in the world. She contributes an auto-ethnographic chapter that critically analyzes race and nationality in Latin dance.

Her current book project is titled “Law, True Storytelling, and the Ethics of Dramatic Editing.” Through this research, she explores genres of true storytelling performance as social activism and production of cultural identity. Frederik examines truth, testimony, and translation in contexts of law and legal process. She looks at the “narrative turn” in law and the contested relationship between rational and emotional argument as they play out in contemporary politics.


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:


“Law, True Storytelling, and the Ethics of Dramatic Editing,” book manuscript in progress

“Trompetas en las Montañas: el Teatro y la Política de la Cultura Nacional en Cuba” (Trumpets in the Mountains: Theatre and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, published by Duke Press 2012), translated by Julio Durán and submitted to press

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) 

 “Poetic Imaginings of the ‘Real’ Guantânamo (No, Not the Base),” in Guantánamo and the American Empire: the Humanities Respond, edited by Jessica Adams and Don Walicek (Palgrave Macmillan 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 1990s (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, Story District, The Stoop of Baltimore (story featured on NPR)
Playback Theatre practitioner