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Performance, Performativity and Play

(Run by and Kelly Fagan Robinson)

: Wednesday 9 October, 4.30pm, Staff Common Room

Conceived to compliment and extend traditional anthropological concerns with ritual, mythology and performance, this group brings together staff and students from the Department of Anthropology who share an interest in ethnographically informed approaches to the study of theatre, creativity and narrative, as well as notions of the anthropological imagination.

Building upon developed anthropological ideas of liminality, the social drama, and performance-as-redressive action, part of our interest is also in the experiential quality of performance from ‘the inside’ as labour; and as theatre as a conduit for the imagination as legitimate object of ethnographic study. Questions include:

  • What does the ethnographic literature tell us about the function of performance and theatre cross-culturally, and does this change when examined from ‘the inside’?
  • Can an ethnographic approach help anthropologists to understand theatre in experiential rather than ritualistic or symbolic terms; how “real” is it; and how does this correlate with ideas of a narrative paradigm?
  • What notions of personhood do practices of ‘impersonation’ enunciate?
  • Is it possible to do ethnographic fieldwork in imaginative environments/non-real situations? How could its practice relate to work done in virtual/digital anthropology?
  • What is the role of creativity in anthropology and how might theatrical paradigms inform it?

In the past the group has met every other week. This year the group’s activities may focus more on workshops and interdisciplinary collaborations. Meetings may take a variety of formats, including discussion of pre-circulated papers, debates and roundtable discussions, as well as public engagement activities, including collaborations with theatre professionals and other practitioners of performing arts.

To join the group UCL students and staff can subscribe to its Moodle intranet facility, where upcoming meetings will be advertised. Other interested parties may wish to contact Kelly Fagan Robinson (

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UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8633