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Flavin, Ian Patrick (1989) Bateson's "Naven" : Towards an anthropology of performance. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028624

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Abstract

The thesis is an attempt to deal with two topics. The text consists of a detailed reading of Gregory Bateson's ethnography of the Iatmul of New Guinea, Naven (1936: 1958). In this classic work Bateson attempted to analyse a nexus of ritual and ceremonial activities among the Iatmul. The theoretical and methodological questions raised by Bateson in his book are of profound importance for anthropology in general, and for studies of "ritual" in particular. The tensions explored in Naven, between explanation and understanding, between action and interpretation and between intellectual coherence and social context, are crucial concerns for anthropologists working in the 1980s. Bateson's book was written at a time when structural-functional ism was the ascendant paradigm in British anthropology, and it dealt with problems which that paradigm was unable to formulate or to discuss. The thesis argues that many of the questions which anthropologists have raised about ritual would be better phrased as questions about performance, and it sets out to show that Naven can be read as a contribution to an anthropology of performance rather than as a contribution to an anthropology of ritual. This constitutes the second topic. The thesis considers critically the work of other scholars in this field, notably Edmund Leach, Clifford Geertz, Claude Levi-Strauss, Gilbert Lewis, Victor Turner and Richard Schechner. Turner and Schechner have recently been responsible for the development of a "dramaturgical" model of ritual and of broader social contexts, and the thesis concludes with a critique of some of the presuppositions implicit in their work. The notion of performance is not offered as an alternative category to that of ritual, for this would only replace one essentialism by another. It is suggested that the development of a theory of performance would constitute a useful strategy in contemporary concerns with the decentering and deconstruction of traditional anthropological categories.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028624
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:00
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28624

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