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Encounter EEs/EHEs ,The Other
Record Type: Review   ID: 215

From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play

Turner, Victor

 Anthropologist Victor Turner, concerned with the need to experience life from the viewpoint of other cultures, hit upon a way to do so via drama. He writes: "We can learn from...the enactment and performance of the culturally transmitted experiences of others" (p. 19). He defines his own terms liminal, liminoid, and communitas, noting that the latter has "something of a ‘flow’ quality" (p. 58, i.e., in Csikszentmihalyi’s sense of the word). He writes about the reflexivity of performance, in which in acting out a play or project, "something new may be generated. The performance transforms itself...hitherto unprecedented insights and even...new symbols and meanings" (p. 79) may be generated. Thus deliberate sociodrama can result in the spontaneous generation of "felt" insights that enable the viewer/participator to experience the reality of the "other." Carrying this idea reflexively back to his own discipline, anthropology, Turner proposes that students perform ethnographies, not simply read and remark on them. As he puts it, "to perform ethnography...is to bring the data home to us in their fullness, in the plenitude of their action-meaning" (p. 91). He describes his attempts at Richard Schechner’s summer theater workshop to teach drama students to perform ethnographies, specifically, social dramas. Schechner "aims at poiesis, rather than mimesis: making not faking" (p. 93) which lends itself well to working with anthropological material. He notes that "Cartesian dualism has insisted on separating subject from object, us from them....The deep bonds between body and mentality, unconscious and conscious thinking, species and self have been treated without respect....The reflexivity of performance dissolves these bonds and so creatively democratizes" (p. 100). In reading about performing ethnographies, one can’t help but wonder about the possibilities of dramatizing EHEs and their aftereffects. A courageous soul who will undertake such a project is very much needed.
Publisher Information:New York: PAJ Publications, 1982. 127p. Chap. bibl; Index: 124-127
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