Bauman and Briggs- Poetics and Performance

Bauman, R. and Briggs, C. (1990). Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life. Annual Review of Anthropology 19.

Bauman and Briggs article emphasizes the performer and the audience. Language as heterogenous and performance provides a frame that invites critical reflection on communicative processes (60).

They write against Austin’s speech act theory and the idea that there exists a 1:1  has rested on a correlation between performative utterances and illocutionary forces. Instead, they suggest that genre plays a role in shaping these forces (63). They call for a shift in the social life of utterances as understood by performativity. 

65- While Austin claimed that performance weakens the performative force of utterances, this literature suggests that poetic patterning, frames, genres, participatory struc- tures, and other dimensions of performance draw attention to the status of speech as social action

1) the relationship between formal features and communicative functions has generally been treated as one of means to ends, such that form becomes meaningful insofar as it is connected with some type of content or function.

2) Austin’s suggestion that performance renders the performative force of utterances “hollow or void” cannot simply be inverted. Performance does not always connect discourse automatically and unimpeachably with particular illocutionary forces and perlocutionary effects.

3)  theories of performativity presuppose conceptions of the nature of language and social action.

68- The problem of false objectivity emerges from the positivistic character of most definitions of context. This equation of “the context” with an “objective” description of everything that surrounds a set of utterances has two important implications. First, since it is obviously impossible to point to all aspects of the context, the researcher becomes the judge of what merits inclusion. Second, positivistic definitions construe context as a set of discourse-external conditions that exist prior to and independently of the performance.

Contextualization involves an active process of negotiation in which participants reflexively examine the discourse as it is emerging, embedding assessments of its structure and significance in the speech itself.

71- Such reflexive attention to contextualization in the ethnographic encounter significantly affected the very formulation of performance theory: Hymes’s foundational distinction between the reporting an artistic text and the performance of it rests on an analysis of shifting and negotiated frames of contextualization in his ethnographic work with his Chinookan consultants.

73-  A text, then, from this vantage point, is discourse rendered decontextualizable. Entextualization may well incorporate aspects of context, such that the resultant text carries elements of its history of use within it.

74- Performance is clearly not the only mechanism of entextualization. Our claim, rather, is that performance as a frame intensifies entextualization.

THE REASON THIS IS A STAPLE TEXT. Performance, the enactment of the poetic function, is a highly reflexive mode of communication. As the concept of performance has been developed in linguistic anthropology, performance is seen as a specially marked, artful way of speaking that sets up or represents a special interpretive frame within which the act of speaking is to be understood.

75-76: 1) Framing:  the metacommunicative management of the recontextualized text. 2) Form-including formal means and structures from phonology, to grammar, to speech style, to larger structures of discourse such as generic packaging principles. 3) Function-manifest, latent, and performative. 4) Indexical grounding, including deictic markers of person, spatial location, time, etc. 5) Translation, including both interlingual and intersemiotic translation. 6) Emergent structure of the new context, as shaped by the process of recontextualization

  • All of these factors-access, legitimacy, competence, and values-bear centrally on the construction and assumption of authority. With regards to re-entextualization

On vs. off stage performance: Performance and Everyday

  • Performance
    • 1) On stage
    • 2) Demarcated activites (on or off stage) (Bauman)
    • 3) you have langue, you perform parole (linguistic, all linguistic acts, externality) Chomksy’s competence
  • Public displays of performance as high Culture and ideals, signs of rich points/cultural dissonance
    • More self-consciousness, more structured
    • Naturalized
    • Hypo vs. hyper performance


-context: emergent between participants

-73: At the heart of the process of decentering discourse is the more fundamental process-entextualization. In simple terms, though it is far from simple, it is the process of rendering discourse extractable, of making a stretch of linguistic production into a unit-a text-that can be lifted out of its interactional setting. A text, then, from this vantage point, is discourse rendered decontextualizable. Entextualization may well incorporate aspects of context, such that the resultant text carries elements of its history of use within it.

73: Performance puts the act of speaking on display—objectifies it, lifts it to a degree from its interactional setting and opens it to scrutiny by an audience.

77- authoritative, maximally protected, islam, bills of rights, constitution

  • authority: who can do it, when can they do it, do you have the authority to do
    • authority is fluid; text can have authority, but then social given/embodied authority.

Conclusion: performance shifts the focus competence/system of rules, communicative action (instead of texts), and a broader understanding of poetics (to include verbal artistry).


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