Accepted Paper:

Reenactment and Realist Representation as Ethnographic Approaches  

Author:

Michaela Schaeuble (University of Bern, Switzerland)

Paper short abstract:

In the 1950s, Ernesto De Martino and his research team made use of reenactments, staged encounters and reconstructed performances (i.e. of funerary lament or choreographies of ecstatic behaviour). The paper reflects on the production of "living documents" as effective ethnological research method.

Paper long abstract:

In the course of his ethnographic "expeditions" to the South of Italy, anthropologist and historian of religion Ernesto De Martino and his research team made extensive use of reenactments, staged encounters and reconstructed performances (i.e. of funerary lament or choreographies of ecstatic behaviour). He considered these as "living documents" and effective ethnological research methods, continually emphasising that reenactments and reconstructions were scientifically as valuable as 'authentic' data.

In my presentation I argue that for De Martino, the woman who vocalises a lament, recurrently hallucinates, falls into trances or who publicly dramatises a spider possession, echoes and perpetuates a formulaic pattern that is neither singular nor collective and goes far beyond individual suffering. This understanding poses a number of challenges - not only with regards to research ethics, but also concerning the explanation, transmission and representation of these patterns. Focusing on a set of audio-visual recordings and photographs that were produced in the course of De Martino's "expeditions", I will scrutinise the coherences and contradictions that arise from an approach that uses the ethnographic present as a key to studying and understanding the Mediterranean world of the distant past.

Panel P019
Art (and anthropology) beyond materiality and representation