Deborah Kapchan– Performance.

Kapchan, D.A. (1995) Performance. Journal of American Folklore 108(430).

Performance is an aesthetic practice that calls participants to be reflexive of their practices, from how they do it to how they talk about it (479).

“The notion of agency is implicit in performance.” (479) Emphasizing process contributed a sense of agency that was difficult to find in structural ideas of culture.

In Kapchan’s article, she foregrounds her example by historicizing the move to performance in anthropology. Referencing Turner, she writes that performance is a means of transformation and negotiation for both groups/communities and individuals, but an extra emphasis on Foucault’s notion of power relations. Reflexivity is an important angle for Kapchan as it centers her angle of agency.

Genre and embodied practice are highly influential features of performance. They are political and ideological and dictate approved behaviors. “Performance genres are intertextual fields where the politics of identity negotiated” (482). The concept of emergence gives performers room to play with the boundaries of genres and embodied practice (484).

Kapchan writes how performance is a process, one that transforms reality. She uses the example of Moroccan halqa performances to think through the embodied practices of performance and its abilities to change social norms.

She writes, “Performance is the center of a chain of relationships linking genre, gender, history, ethnography, and social (embodied) practice. In the performance above, women’s appropriation of a traditionally male genre works to inscribe their communication in a symbolic domain so replete with sounds, smells, tastes, and words that it has become paradigmatic of Moroccan theatrical performance generally…While this is accomplished in a specific performative context, its repercussions nonetheless seep through the borders of the halqa to take on symbolic life in the minds of spectator-participants and their kin” (499).

Performance as “multisemiotic modes of cultural expression” that allow for a more symbolic analysis of social reality.


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