The Politics of Cultural Performance

The Politics of Cultural Performance

The Politics of Cultural Performance

The Politics of Cultural Performance

Synopsis

The line between what is regarded by people as "traditional" and "modern" is constantly being altered by new configurations of power. These essays examine the ways in which such changes are both communicated and created through cultural performances in diverse ethnographic settings. Examples are drawn from a wide range of forms and expressions: divinatory sequences, spirit possession rites, state ceremonials, village feasts, pilgrimages, language-use and craft specialisms. It was Abner Cohen, to whom this volume is dedicated, who first suggested that a dialectical relationship existed between power and symbolism. This concept, as developed in his seminal work, has since become a growing area of study as reflected in this important collection. By questioning some of the directions, the authors make a major interdisciplinary contribution to the study of cultural performance as a key factor in power relationships. The principal stage is Africa, but comparative ethnographic data are drawn from Ireland, Italy, South Asia, and the United Kingdom.

David Parkin is Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

Excerpt

This collection of essays has been brought together by friends, former students and colleagues of Abner Cohen to whom the book is dedicated.

To many -- including his family -- Abner often seems to have been 'born a social anthropologist'. He has devoted himself to teaching, exploring, writing and thinking about the subject through most of his working life. Moreover, it has informed his approach to life itself, and his dedication to social anthropology has not diminished despite a long, progressive and debilitating illness.

Armed with a first degree in philosophy from the University of London (external), Abner taught at and inspected schools in Teheran and Israel. This early experience gave him the teaching skills which were later appreciated by students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

It was during this period as school inspector in Israel that Abner's interest in social anthropology first began. After a long correspondence with Max Gluckman, founder of the 'Manchester School', a two-year scholarship from the British Council enabled Abner to begin his postgraduate career in 1956 in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Manchester. Abner was seduced into continuing his research by the Manchester School and the stimulus of those scholars who were to exert considerable influence on social anthropology in Britain. Max Gluckman and Emrys Peters played a significant role in his early thinking on the subject. in 1958 Abner embarked upon a study of Arab villages in Israel, which was to provide the data for his doctorate and for his first book.

Manchester also provided the foundation for Abner's family life. in 1960 he married Gaynor, a former undergraduate and fellow . . .

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