Performing Culture.

All readings available in the module for the unit!
Bell- Performing Culture.pdf (uploaded)
Hall_The_work_of_representation.pdf (uploaded)
Fusco, Other History Of Intercultual Performance.pdf (uploaded)

In this quarantine art challenge, creativity begins at home (Links to an external site.)

People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine

MAKE SURE TO fulfill all the three below Points:

The good critical response has three components:

A summary of one major idea the reading presented. All the texts and articles we will read have multiple theoretical contributions or critical perspectives on the case study they are discussing. Select an idea that resonated most with you and offer a very brief summary.
Your own example from societal and cultural practices that illustrate this idea. This example or illustration of the idea can be taken from a text, performance, or an everyday cultural practice.
Do you agree with the author – why or why not? Give a well-thought out argument to support your position. Remember, you are not giving your personal opinion (“I don’t like what they are saying” or “I like what they are saying”) but critically evaluating their position.


Performing Culture

A nthropology, sociology, and even psychology in the mid-nineteenth cen-tury took “the study of man” as their central concern. The guidingmethod for these new academic areas was positivism, the belief that cov- ering laws of human organization could be discovered through direct observation. This perspective maintains that the universe is orderly, and the job of scientific inquiry is to discover this order and classify it in systematic ways. Charles Darwin’s work on evolution was an important model for researchers in the social sciences who searched for origins in the “evolution” of culture.

Theories of the evolution of culture are interwoven with the study of religion. Three schools of theory emerged in the nineteenth century—myth and ritual, soci- ological, and psychological—all asking the question, Did religion originate in myth or ritual? Mircea Eliade was interested in the phenomenology of religious experi- ence and how myths and rituals are expressions of both the sacred and the profane in culture that provide unity for people. The sociological school, led by Emile Durkheim, maintained that religion is a social creation whose function is to pre- serve the welfare of a society. Sigmund Freud anchored the psychological approach: taboos of incest and patricide necessitate rituals that appease repressed desires.

Across these approaches, performance was studied for its window into larger cultural structures, like religion, politics, economics, language, and identity (Beeman 1993). When specific performance genres were studied (like rites, rituals, games, contests, dance, and music), performance was often seen as a fixed, static product, evidence of cross-cultural similarities, and indicative of universal needs and expressions.

This chapter traces the theories that helped transform the “study of man” into the study of performance. Arnold van Gennep’s (1909/1960) rites of passage, Johan


Theory in Perspective: How Do Cultures Perform?

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Huizinga’s (1938/1950) play theory, and Milton Singer’s (1972) cultural performance laid the groundwork for the performance turn in the study of culture. This turn rejects the view of performances as fixed objects to be studied in the science of pos- itivism and embraces performance as a paradigm for understanding how culture makes and remakes itself. Performance can be understood as “the embodied processes that produce and consume culture . . . performance makes things and does things” (Hamera 2006, 5).

The work of anthropologist Victor Turner, introduced in Chapter Four through the social drama, is credited for ushering in this performance turn in the study of culture. Turner rejects concepts of culture as static or deterministic structures that “imprint” themselves on waxlike, malleable humans. Humans push back in mean- ingful and efficacious ways on culture, and in turn, change it. Turner argues that a performance approach to culture (1) reflects dynamic cultural processes, (2) enables possibilities between and within cultural structures, and (3) provides opportunities for critique and transformation. Performances are constitutive of culture, not something added to culture; performances are epistemic, the way cul- tural members “know” and enact the possibilities in their worlds; and perfor- mances are critical lenses for looking at and reshaping cultural forms.

This chapter surveys theories that help us answer these questions: What is cul- ture? How do people move in and through culture? What is ritual? How is culture performed individually and collectively, especially as a vehicle of history, public memory, and institutions? What are our ethical responsibilities toward cultures other than our own?

What Is Culture?

Dictionary definitions of “culture” have changed through time. From the Latin cul- tura, meaning “cultivation” or “tending,” the growing of plants, crops, or animals is a very early meaning of the word. Most of us think of culture in two different ways based on definitions more than one hundred years old.

In 1882, British poet and social theorist Matthew Arnold proposed culture as the refinement of tastes and sensibilities. He maintained that culture is “the pur- suit of our total perfection by means of getting to know . . . the best which has been thought and said in the world.” Arnold held Western music, art, architec- ture, and literature as his standard for civilization and for “high culture.” English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor (1871/1958) expanded the definition of culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Raymond Williams (1958/1983) was the first to propose that culture is ordi- nary, the “common meanings and directions” of a society. These meanings are learned, made, and remade by individuals. Culture is at once traditional, a whole way of life passed on through generations, and creative, the processes of discovery that lead to new ways of thinking and doing.