ANTHROPOLOGY, THEATRE AND DEVELOPMENT: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL OF PERFORMANCE







From Pussy Riot and the Arab Spring to Italian mafia dance, this book provides an interdisciplinary analysis of relational reflexivity in political performance. By putting anthropological theory into dialogue with artistic and activist practices, this book highlights how aesthetics and politics interrelate in precarious spheres of social life. The contributors of this interdisciplinary volume raise questions about the transformative potential of participating in and reflecting upon political performances both as individual and as collectives. The book argues that such processes provide a rich field and new pathways for anthropological explorations of peoples' own reflections on humanity, sociality, change, and aspiration. Reflecting on political transformations through performance puts centre stage the ethical dimensions of cultural politics and how we enact political subjectivity.

The edited book stemmed from a conference panel that I convened with Jonas Tinius at IUAES 2013 in Manchester entitled 'All the world's a stage’: the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance. At this conference, we sought to put different perspectives into dialogue, and while this book reflects the interdisciplinary of those contributions, the central premise of the authors is a tightly argued anthropological focus on what we term 'relational reflexivity'.

The book outlines our stance on the transformative potential of participating in and reflecting upon political performances both as individual and as collectives. Both through our introduction, and our own chapters, Jonas and I argue that such processes provide a rich field and new pathways for anthropological explorations of peoples' own reflections on humanity, sociality, change, and aspiration. Reflecting on political transformations through performance puts centre stage the ethical dimensions of cultural politics and how we enact political subjectivity.

The book has been endorsed by Professor Marylin Strathern, Professor Arturo Escobar, and Professor James Thompson. Some of their comments:

'When is reflection political, ethical? This multidimensional collection on performance as theatre opens up an arena for exploration through the sheer audacity of its scope. Anthropologically informed, diversely interpreted, it is a compelling example of unexpected collaborations.' - Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge, UK

'This collective book proposes a lucid rethinking and critique of the field of 'theatre for development'. It is based on the premise that, because of its ineluctable embeddedness in place and locality, engaged performance has a particularly powerful contribution to make to the ever-elusive goal of sustainability. 'Relational' and 'embodied' reflexivity emerge from the rich spectrum of chapters as a compelling new paradigm for political transformation and for an effective theory and practice of sustainability; it also offers an antidote to the detached rationality of globalized modernity and expert-driven development, so essential to healing the ravages on nature, peoples and cultures caused by it. This volume should be read by those working on art and performance, development, and sustainability in fields such as anthropology, geography, politics, and environmental, social movements, and global studies. It constitutes a much welcome and illuminating voice in the cacophony of debates on the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals taking place at present.' - Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

'The conversation between Anthropology, Theatre and Development is long and profound - and this collection deepens it further through a powerful set of analyses that draw on an impressive range of theoretical sources and geographically-located practices. Its breadth is excellent and it will strengthen the thinking, and I hope practice, of those that seek to expand the scope of performance and anthropology scholarship.' - James Thompson, The University of Manchester, UK








auflynn [at] ucla.edu



Alex Ungprateeb Flynn is an Assistant Professor at the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, University of California, Los Angeles. Working as an anthropologist and curator, Alex’s practice explores the intersection of ethnographic and curatorial modes of enquiry. Researching collaboratively with activists, curators and artists in Brazil since 2007, Alex explores the prefigurative potential of art in community contexts, prompting the theorisation of fields such as the production of knowledge, the pluriversal, and the social and aesthetic dimensions of form.