Turner -ritual and drama

Turner -ritual and drama - Frame, Flow and Reflection:...

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Frame, Flow and Reflection: Ritual and Drama as Public Liminality Victor TURNER What, at first glance, could be less close, less akin than drama and reflection? Drama demands a stage, actors, a heightened atmosphere, spectators, the smell of the crowd, the roar of the greasepaint. Reflection is at least one of the things one does with one's solitude. But to counter this opposi- tion an anthropologist tends to think in terms not of solitary but of plural reflection, or, much better, plural reflexivity, the ways in which a group or community seeks to portray, understand, and then act on itself. Essentially, public reflexivity takes the form of a performance. The languages through which a group communicates itself to itself are not, of course, confined to talking codes: they include ges- tures, music, dancing, graphic representation, painting, sculpture, and the fashioning of symbolic objects. They aredramatic, that is literally "doing" codes. Public reflex- ivity is also concerned with what I have called "liminality." This term, literally "being-on-a-threshold," means a state or process which is betwixt-and-between the normal, day- today cultural and social states and processes of getting and spending, preserving law and order, and registering structural status. Since liminal time is not controlled by the clock it is a time of enchantment when anything might, even should, happen. Another way of putting it would be to say that the liminal in socio-cultural process is similar to the subjunctive mood in verbs - just as mundane socio- Reproduced by permission of the author and of the publisher from Performance in postmodern culture (Madison, Wisconsin: Coda Press, Inc., 1977,. The section heads (except for the last) have been added by the editor. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 614 December 1979 465
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Victor TURNER structural activities resemble the indicative mood. Limi- nality is full of potency and potentiality. It may also be full of experiment and play. There may be a play of ideas, a play of words, a play of symbols, a play of metaphors. In it, play's the thing. Liminality is not confined in its ex- pression to ritual and the performative arts. Scientific hypotheses and experiments and philosophical speculation are also forms of play, though their rules and controls are more rigorous and their relation to mundane "indicative" reality more pointed than those of genres which proliferate in fantasy. One might say, without too much exaggeration, that liminal phenomena are at the level of culture what vari- ability is at the level of nature. Liminal rites. Liminality is the term used by the Belgian folklorist van Gennep to denominate the second of three stages in what he called a "rite of passage." Such rites are found in all cultures, and are seen as both indicators and vehicles of transition from one sociocultural state and status to another - childhood to maturity, virginity to marriage, childlessness to parenthood, ghosthood to ancestorhood, sickness to health, peace to war and vice versa, scarcity to plenty, winter to spring, and so on. He did, however, dis-
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2011 for the course ANTHROPOLO 0111 taught by Professor Rogers during the Spring '10 term at NYU.

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Turner -ritual and drama - Frame, Flow and Reflection:...

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