Accepted paper:

The anthropologist as ensemble member: Taking research theatre seriously


Caroline Gatt (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

I present a retrospective and prospective exploration that ‘takes seriously’ (Viveiros de Castro) the work of research theatre. This presents two main challenges: how to approach parallel, non-institutional research traditions within Euro-American spheres and the text-focused practice of ethnography

Paper long abstract:

While ethnographic texts create distance and enable control of 'the other', performance requires "participation (at least as an audience) and therefore some degree of mutual recognition" (Fabian 1999: 27). Conquergood (2002) suggests that ethnography-as-performance, as opposed to ethnographic text, opens the ethnographic dialogue to those who are not trained in academic discourse or those who cannot read. In this paper I explore the potential insights gained by doing anthropology with research theatre practitioners as contrasted with an anthropology of theatre. I present these experimental reflections by means of a retrospective exploration of my engagement with a number of theatre makers, in the tradition of Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba. The work of these theatre makers has developed into a disciplined and articulated research movement into the human condition. Research theatre is beginning to carve its place in a number of universities. In fact, Grotowski and his actors always engaged to some degree with universities. However, the bulk of this research is, and always has been, conducted outside of established institutional frameworks. Research theatre practitioners can be understood as forming part of Foucault's subjugated knowledges; 'the low other of science'. The collaborative approach I explore in this paper entails allowing this body of subjugated knowledge to inform both practice and theory in the production of anthropological knowledge. Taking seriously the prospective, performative nature of research theatre, allowing this to inform ethnographic practice, offers anthropology a means to develop processual understandings that differ from those afforded by text.

panel G50
'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance