The State of Research on Performance in Africa Author(s): Margaret Thompson Drewal Source: African Studies Review, Vol. 34, No.

3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 1-64 Published by: African Studies Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/12/2013 17:10
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The State of Research on Performance in Africa
Margaret Thompson Drewal
Performance raises fundamental issues about bodily praxis, human agency, temporality, and discursive knowledge and calls into question conventional understandings of tradition, repetition, mechanical reproduction, and ontological definitions of social order and reality. Across academic disciplines and across modes of production, however, performance is a contested concept, "meaning that its very existence is bound up in disagreement about what it is, and that disagreement over its essence is itself part of that essence" (Strine, Long, and HopKins, 1989: 183).1 In other words, performance has no precisely agreed upon definition. Rather it varies in scope and import from one academic discipline to another and from one practitioner, or human agent, to another. In the emerging field of performance studies, performance is open-ended, but it privileges process, the temporally or processually constructed nature of human realities, and the agency of knowledgeable performers who have embodied particular techniques and styles to accomplish it (M. Drewal, 1989b;Conquergood, 1989). In the broadest sense, performance is the praxis of everyday social life; indeed, it is the practical application of embodied skill and knowledge to the task of taking action. Performance is thus a fundamental dimension of culture as well as the production of knowledge about culture. It might include anything from individual agents' negotiations of everyday life, to the stories people tell each other, popular entertainments, political oratory, guerrilla warfare, to bounded events such as theater, ritual, festivals, parades, and more. As the application of embodied skill and knowledge, performance is behavior twice behaved, repetition, "restored behavior" not (Schechner, 1985: 35-116), in which performers often-but always-have some responsibility either to an audience or to each other, as in participatory performances such as rituals or council meetings. Implied here is that performers have been either formally or informally trained in body techniques to recursively restore a particular style or mode of performance. In this regard, performance often involves what Richard Bauman and Charles L. Briggs (1990) call "the enactment of the poetic function" as well as the
African Studies Review, Volume 34, Number 3 (December 1991), pp. 1-64.

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AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW authoritative display of communicative competence, features of performance that have been of particular concern in sociolinguistics and folklore. Acquired, in-body techniques for use in performance need not constitute structures or systems for unreflexive, mechanical reproduction as in the Foucaultian sense of the subjugated body (Foucault, 1979). Rather techniques of the body should be understood as resources for negotiation that knowledgeable agents deploy critically in specific performances either for complicity or resistance. Performance participants can self-reflexively monitor their behavior in the process of the doing.2 Therefore, more than simply observing that performance is emergent, it is crucial to examine the rhetoric of performers situated in time and place. For performance as a mode of activity is often tactical and improvisational. Given that performance is temporal, it demands an approach that can accommodate human agents in the ongoing process of constructing social realities. Processual models of various kinds proliferated across disciplines in the social sciences in the 1970s. In Sherry Ortner's review of theory in anthropology since the 1960s, she contended that these processual models largely supported Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's assertions that "society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product" (1984: 158).3 However, anthropology in the 1980s, Ortner predicted, would shift focus onto "how society and culture themselves are produced and reproduced through human intention and action." Even though this has been a theoretical and methodological concern across fields of study-linguistics, ethnomethodology, folklore, anthropology, sociology-to my knowledge this has not of yet profoundly altered the study of performance in Africa, by and large I think due to the prevalence of models that objectify performance and in this way implicitly deny its temporality. The embodied practices and actions of performers as human agents situated in time and place in Africaboth constituting and constituents of ongoing social process-remain largely unresearched. And it is in this area that a performance paradigm can inform social theory. In Africa performance is a primary site for the production of knowledge, where philosophy is enacted, and where multiple and often simultaneous discourses are employed (M. Drewal, 1990). Not only that, but performance is a means by which people reflect on their current conditions, define and/or re-invent themselves and their social world, and either re-enforce, resist, or subvert prevailing social orders. Indeed both subversion and legitimation can emerge in the same utterance or act. My project in this review paper is to evaluate the current state of research on performance in Africa and ultimately to provoke a reorientation in research methods that more adequately recuperates the dynamics of African performance practices. Stated briefly, the reI propose involves three simultaneous orientation paradigmatic


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1986: 210) and the inadequacy of researchers' performance skills. a romantic longing for another time and place where communality.Performance in Africa shifts: 1) from structure to process (from an essentially spatialized.5 Performance.124. connectedness. that preclude any research method other than distanced observation. interactive research practice). Fernandez. or say music or oral poetics. I address the problem of the objectivist bias in Western epis- 3 This content downloaded from 165. I am not content to reproduce the past discursively to re-inscribe what has already been done. it has been a model par excellence of the return to the whole. Rather my aim is to interrogate that past. participatory. objectivist view to a temporal.146 on Mon. I believe. Within its rules. and 3) from the collective to the agency of named individuals in the continuous flow of social interactions. broadly defined as the practical application of embodied skills and knowledge to the task of taking action in everyday social life enables me in this review paper to cut across a wide range of disciplines in order to present an overview of certain trends and to foreground certain persistent problems as I see them. Nor can I cover the enormous field of film and media studies. among others the lack of fluency in African languages. collective conscience. Second. performance such as ritual at once encapsulates the world of social relationships and the cosmos. and efficacy characterized the social order. patterns. distanced. 1977: 33. My discussion is organized in the following order: I first of all survey the broad interest in performance across disparate disciplines in order to briefly situate its various strands in time and place.4 Like performers on the African continent. in the end to propose alternative approaches. Only then can performance as praxis be historicized and long-term transformations be revealed. For the West. This paper comes at a critical juncture in scholarly thinking about the political implications of Western researches on "Others" in general. The literature on ritual alone. The literature that touches on issues pertinent to performance in Africa is vast. I must necessarily do this in a cursory way given the depth and breadth of perspectives on performance across disciplines.129. It is impossible to cover all research systematically within the limitations of this review essay. 2) from the normative to the particular and historically situated (from the timeless to the time-centered). and convention in societies (Goody. Bruner. historical overviews whenever possible. 1986: 8. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . coherence. that body of research. could form the basis of a review paper in and of itself. is twofold: the project in the social sciences until fairly recently to search for regularity. for it raises issues about the politics of mass communication and technology and mechanical reproduction on a global scale that is beyond the scope of this paper. and to survey present problems in order to shape future research. The reason such a shift has not already taken place in African studies. pattern. but I refer the reader to other critical. however. and processes.

2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Epistemologically. to acknowledge not only that each half of that equation necessarily affects the other. oral performance. medical practice-from different disciplinary perspectives. and instead integrate the short-term (individual moves/tactics) and the long-term (projects/strategies) as both constituting. music. theater. I move to a phenomenological treatment of repetition in research and performance praxis. In making this claim. As such both performance and research necessarily involve relations between the past and individual agents' interpretations. I do not wish to suggest that objectivism is untenable as a scientific project.124. including my own. both performance and research entail repetition-not as reproduction. this is necessary in order to attempt to move beyond the limitations of objectivist metaphysics.129. giving a close reading of how it works. ongoing social process. and constituent of. but that in many respects the two have very similar goals. but as transformational process involving acts of re-presentation with critical difference. dance.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW temology which has established certain research procedures and perspectives and a consequent disjunction between Western academic subjects and African performance practices. My further aim is to bring researcher/research and performer/performance into a coeval relationship (Fabian.146 on Mon. Rather I simply want to demonstrate how the very foci and methodologies of all our researches derive from the Western disciplinary tradition and from objectivist metaphysics. Not only is performance production. As restored behavior. In making strategic shifts methodologically. I draw on research that resonates most strongly with this method in hopes of stimulating further movement in that direction. This critique leads in turn to a comparison of various kinds of performance research-on ritual. Most researches by humanists and social scientists could be subjected to the same critique. Performance challenges the notion of an objective social reality as well as the notion that society and human beings are products.6 After forwarding my critique. I propose an alternative method in the final section of the paper that temporalizes (historicizes) research practices at the same time that it accedes temporality and historicity to performance itself. and revisions of that past in present theory and practice. but rather that it has constrained the study of performance in Africa. but both society and human beings are performative. 1983). This is necessary in order to achieve my overall project. I avoid a dichotomy between practice and system. Throughout this discussion. always already processually under construction. I do not wish to imply that the researches I critique have no value. inscriptions. 4 This content downloaded from 165. I underscore these problems through an examination of a few exemplary texts concerned explicitly with performance in Africa.

1981). Turner.124. Milton Singer's concept of "cultural performance" as an encapsulation of a larger. Goldstein's (1975). 1962. While this body of work. sometimes overlapping. especially his treatment of the carnivalesque and heteroglossia (1968. and blurred genres (1973.Performance in Africa Performance Studies: A Brief Overview There are three broad. 1975). Erving Goffman's dramaturgical model of the presentation of self in everyday life. 1974. 1) diverse theoretical perspectives from a wide range of disciplines from the mid-1940s on that have directly or indirectly influenced research on performance in Africa. namely. 1972. deep play. and 3) the turn toward processual approaches in the social sciences that gained momentum in the 1970s. More recently. anthropologists. 1980). which employ his notions of liminality and communitas. has influenced folklorists. unmanageable whole (1972). 1969) and sociolinguistics. Some of the influential perspectives include: Kenneth Burke's rhetorical. the latter indebted largely to Bateson as well as Richard Schechner (1988 [1966]). and Geertz. influential in anthropology. Hymes. privileged among others. calls for a performance-centered approach to verbal art. at the same time it developed a more multidimensional interrelationanalysis of form-function-meaning 5 This content downloaded from 165. Gumperz and Hymes. Gregory Bateson's work on metacommunication in performance and play (1958. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . areas that I have sketched out briefly to situate performance studies historically as an emerging field of inquiry. particularly the ethnography of speaking (Labov. performance-oriented theories that take stock of the effects of performance on audiences (1945). Dominant Performance Perspectives Since the mid-1940s scholars from a range of disciplines have theorized human action using dramaturgical paradigms and metaphors. 1964. 1962. Goffman. as well as his frame analysis which seeks to explain how audiences recognize that a performance is in progress (1959. and Clifford Geertz's concepts of thick description. 1972). as well as Richard Bauman's (1977). 1974). Likewise. and Roger Abraham's theory of enactment (1977).146 on Mon. and others: Dan Ben-Amos and Kenneth S. Searle. Bauman and Sherzer. and folklore. Victor Turner's models of social drama (1957) and the ritual process (1969). English translations of Mikhail Bakhtin's work have begun to influence the study of performance. sociology. strongly influenced by Burke. yet ironically their perspectives have been instrumental in shaping research on performance in Africa. in fact never actually researched drama per se. 1972. 1974. 2) a concern with the performing arts in higher education since the 19th century that eventually led to the institutionalization of Performance Studies as an academic department in 1980.129. combining sociolinguistics language and neglected history. and folklore from the 1950s on. speech act theory deriving from the philosophy of language (Austin.

William P. and frontstage/backstage.] [Bloch's] typology minimizes strategic and reflexive 6 This content downloaded from 165. authoritarian oratory may conceal consensual practices. Critiquing Maurice Bloch's influential typology of oratory in which he links the degree of formalization in public oratory to limited or open participation within political systems (1975). and Giddens. An enactment. Murphy observed that "by conceptualizing traditional authority as 'unconsciously uses of traditional political oratory" wherein highly formalized. As a strategically disharmonious chorus of contradictory meaning. cueing or keying. People tend to conceal certain social realities from the 'frontstage' of gatherings. Gumperz and Hymes' and Bauman and Sherzer's concerns with formality.146 on Mon. liminality.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW ships for studying the discursive constitution of social life. Goffman's analysis of performance frames.] is not simply a transparent reflection of institutional structure. Sierra Leone. 1990). Bloch. . Murphy analyzed the language and logic of consensus in a Mende lineage meeting in Sierra Leone. 1990. "frontstage" (public) and "backstage" (secret) discourses reveal. . according to Abraham. and social drama. performative utterances. Peek. and communicative competence in speech acts. variously termed verbal art." itself indebted to Goffman-and to Bateson before him. Murphy concluded. John Nunley (1987. 1988) drew on Roger Abraham's theory of enactment for his notion of "frame. 1974. and more recently oraliture (Ray. Only a few examples of the ways these concepts have been applied must suffice here. The fact of concealment adds complex lamination to social reality in which divergent. 1989. Drawing on Goffman. 1973. power. "a reflexive awareness of the public/secret dialectic of consensus as well as the individuality. Turner. Discourse analysis perhaps more so than any other perspective has shown performance to be rhetorical. Hale. This work has in turn been influential on those studying African oral performance. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . oral literature. 1974) has exhaustively demonstrated. Barber. Turner's concepts of communitas. . patterning. and artistry associated with its persuasive management" (1990). as Goffman (1959. . 1981. certain key concepts have become part of a standard vocabulary in research on performance broadly-in particular. as well as treatments of performance in terms of an event or enactment. Appearing to be consensual in a gathering is a key strategy of obscuring such concealment (1990).129.Murphy. 1975. among others.7 As a result of these earlier works.124. is "any cultural event that brings people together to employ multivocal and polyvalent signs and symbols to heighten ritual experience" and inaccepted' [. while consensual public oratory may mask authoritarian power. unsanctioned ideas and practices become relegated to the 'backstage' domains of social life. In his work on Ode-lay masking in Freetown. oral texts. arguing that language and interaction in any gathering [.

124." By identifying the frames of successful performances. rituals. Turnbull contended that the liminal state is a condition of otherness that coexists with objective awareness and visual perception. Nunley was able to understand why performances with missing frames failed. Only recently is an expanded concept of text-and with it a counter-hegemonic move away from canonical textsbeginning to influence this performance perspective. The Institutionalization of Performance Studies Performance Studies as a formally institutionalized department in academia emerged from two distinct historical contexts: 19thcentury elocutionism and the 1960s' avant-garde and political protest movements. but rather it is itself "the process of transformation at work" (1990: 79). I submit. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Employing Mary Douglas' theory of purity and pollution and Gregory Bateson's work on play and fantasy. for example. a condition of otherness that is at once a repetition and a transformation of the past.Performance in Africa cludes performances. 1989: 184). objectivity and subjectivity. and HopKins. If this is so. Although Turnbull overdrew the boundary between rational thought and experience. he concluded that it is only by risking pollution in the streets. 1987: 221. Colin Turnbull has argued that liminality is not merely a medial stage in a rite of transition. The performance can succeed only when the frames that entail risk in the streets are included. Each of these components is "highly stylized" and "framed. Research and performance. know it or understand it as long as we restrict ourselves to the rational. About this transformational process. in reproducing the theories and perspectives of Goffman. D. games. analytical approach of contemporary anthropology" (1990: 80). Elaborating one of Turner's key ideas. then performing itself is perpetual liminality. the organizers of Ode-lay enactments have at their disposal a mechanism for structuring masked performance in order to heighten individual experience. Thompson. The former was tied to the oral interpretation of texts and the Western canon in literature (see. Long. "we can not be aware of it. and festivities (Nunley. Drawing on his work with the Mbuti of Central African Republic. Bateson." that the masks can achieve purity (Nunley.] With the 7 This content downloaded from 165. . foreground the form and movement of the participants. 1988: 109). Nunley's. . Strine.146 on Mon. [. and Turnbull's studies themselves involve repetition with difference. where "play changes to mood-sign behavior and nip becomes bite. opening the field to cross-cultural studies and kinds of performance not based on the graphically written text (Pelias and VanOosting. Turner. Murphy's. what Schechner calls restored behavior. objective. 1983). and others. W. Turnbull concluded. to appropriate frames and their most effective editing. his criticism of the analytical stance of most anthropology is well-founded. 1988: 118). both are in a perpetual state of liminality and otherness. work similarly in this way. thus perpetuating the mind/body split.129.

Turner developed this idea most explic8 This content downloaded from 165. anthropologists who had worked in Africa began to develop theories of performance. and especially Indiana University (Stone. From the conjunction of these interests. 1957. 1988b). 1958. 4) either reintegration of the contending parties or schism. the Graduate Drama Program at New York University changed its identity in 1980. the 1970s marked a major theoretical shift in the social sciences which. The Turn Toward Process in the Social Sciences Although process models had existed for some time in sociology. In brief. 1975. when people position themselves as antagonists in relation to each other. 1986). Michel de Certeau (1984). 1985. stimulated a broader interest in the drama of socially staged action and non-scripted performance-protest marches. 1964. 1966. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1962. 3) redressive action to resolve the crisis. Fortes. 1990). or practice.129.9 Interestingly. this shift coincided with pleas for a performance-centered approach in sociolinguistics and folklore (Bauman and Sherzer.146 on Mon. parades.STUDIESREVIEW AFRICAN The second impetus mentioned above. the University of Wisconsin-Madison. synchronic analyses to diachronic. 1986) and James Fernandez (1982. other institutions of higher learning became centers for explicitly performance-oriented research. Schechner. This new theoretical orientation is sometimes called action. At the time. 1990). 1977) and the institutionalization of Performance Studies as an academic department in higher education. theory. "might be seen as a shift from static. 1955. Hymes. defying disciplinary constraints and boundaries in order to forge a more truly interdisciplinary research practice. most notably. 1986b). Central to Turner's theorizing on performance is his agonistic model of "social drama" that corresponds closely to the Aristotelian view of tragedy. processual ones" (1984: 159). among others. 1970). come immediately to mind. The works of more recent theorists Pierre Bourdieu (1977. Victor Turner (1982. The institutionalization of Performance Studies as an academic department in its own right is particularly significant because it opened up the definition of performance to incorporate the practice of everyday life. reconstituting itself as the Department of Performance Studies so that students might rigorously pursue the interdisciplinary.8 Meanwhile. 2) crisis. the field of drama focused largely on written texts. linguistics. Bauman. Shortly thereafter. 1982. and intercultural study of performance (Zarrilli. social drama is processually structured public action composed of four phases: 1) breach of social relations. 1986a: 372. to name a few.124. that growing out of the 1960s. Bateson. 1974. and anthropology (Gluckman. Turner. according to Sherry Ortner. intergeneric. Hymes. from the 1970s on. Performance theorists such as Richard Schechner thus turned to the social sciences where scholars were engaged explicitly with the study of human behavior. the Folklore Programs at the University of Texas at Austin. and experimental performance (Kaprow. most notably. and Anthony Giddens (1979. 1984). rituals.

Obscurity. .Performance in Africa itly in relation to performance in his Dramas. the play of mind being energized by social situations. performance is seen as a figurative argument of any sort. 1988). "makes a movement and leads to performance" that at once expresses and acts out that which can never really be fully grasped. but rather how human agents argue with images and play tropes to construct their identities (ix). in this way removing it from everyday life except as metaphor? And what are the implications of such removal? In Fernandez's Persuasions and Performances: The Play of Tropes in Culture (1986). and the idiosyncrasies of experience and its interpretations (235). men become the metaphor predicated upon them. But it cannot account for forms of performance that are paratactical or seriate. Barber. ritual should be analyzed. the conflict of social roles in life. and The Anthropology of Performance (1986). "my contention is that the major genres of cultural performance (from ritual to theater and film) and narration (from myth to the novel) not only originate in the social drama but also continue to draw meaning and force from the social drama" (1986: 94). Does performance need to be viewed primarily in theatrical terms. involving the play of tropes. and Metaphors On the Edge of the Bush (1985). is born of the duplicity of language. Critiquing Turner. 235). 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or inchoateness. 1991). Fernandez contends. Turner wrote. what Fernandez calls "the inchoate" (8. Drewal. including his own. It renders performance as a master narrative that follows a particular course. Such a monolithic view constrains what performance is and can be. One cannot help wondering if dramaturgical metaphors such as social drama. backstage/frontstage. Drewal and H.124. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (1982). and cueing really further our understanding of social life.146 on Mon. for example (Jules-Rosette. Paul Bouissac has pointed out that the social drama model does little more than translate homeostasis and catastrophe throughout nature into theatrical and moral terms (1990: 207). [. 1987. by a series of superordinate (1974). In Turner's essay. It follows from this view that no successful ritual can permit the exit of its participants until the set of ceremonial scenes has achieved the approximation of the 9 This content downloaded from 165. In the latter. such as most Yoruba ritual and praise epithet performances (M. according to Fernandez.] Through such ceremonial scenes. "Experience and Performance: Towards a New Processual Anthropology. as a series of organizing images or metaphors put into operation and subordinate ceremonial scenes. As performance. Clearly there are forms of performance that follow such a course-prophetic performance in the Apostolic Church of John Maranke. .129. Fernandez is not so much interested in a formal analysis of tropes. Fields." he renamed the social drama an experiential theory (1985: 205-26). A strategic play of tropes. This process he sees as "essentially a play of mind within domains (by metonym principally) and between domains (by metaphor principally)" (xii).

. The word performance is never invoked. sometimes without explicitly drawing attention to the performativeness of their subject matter. [. as in the discussions of hunger and of the relations between men and women. David William Cohen and E. could we then view it as socially insignificant. Johnson. through its thick descriptions of the 'hunger of Obalo' and the 'powers of women. Performance in Africa is more often than not central to the social lives of people. static. "the play of mind" rather than the play of body. as 'sites of political action' and 'social commentary'. 10 This content downloaded from 165. [. but as Gaurav Desai has pointed out. Siaya retains a processual.] Siaya teaches us the ways in which a performative imagination can help re-define historiography and conversely the value of a situated historicity in the study of performative practices (1990a: 81). 1987).146 on Mon. S. participants are in this way subordinated to those scenes.129. he remains firmly within the tradition of symbology and draws his conceptual framework primarily from literary criticism. Therefore the study of performance is at once the study of social process. the study of performance belongs properly to no discipline as such. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the challenge in the study of performance is to analyze the relationships between metaphors and the transformations from one to another.' to its Afterword. Whether taken as the practice of everyday life or a bounded..AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW subject to the metaphor-until the subject has achieved the movement in quality space implied by that metaphor (1986: 43). cut off from the political and economic environment which sustains it. The focus on metaphors as mental constructs. "Predicated upon" through the enactment of ceremonial scenes.124. and impotent. and indeed the bodily basis of metaphoric imagination (see M. from its opening discussion of the 'landscape' of Siaya as a 'field of interaction' of geographically displaced subjects with common identities. performance is inherently social and rhetorical. of which mind is an integral part. and yet many disparate disciplines have taken it up in one way or another. minimizes the agency of performers. a diversion. Atieno Odhiambo's Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape (1989) is a case in point. framed event. In this. Only if we understand performance as merely an entertainment. which they must complete in order to be approximated to the metaphor. . . and in which it develops and transforms.] Narrative and performance emerge in the study not only as 'sites of cultural memory' but also. For Fernandez. the burial case of Silavanus Melea Otieno. their embodied practices. While Fernandez's work entertains how human agents perform tropes. not peripheral as in the narrow sense of staged action. performative imagination.

these two conditions have created a disjunction between Western academic subjects and African performance practices. 1987). priority is given to research on performance as social praxis. H. Nketia. The irony is: had the disciplinary tradition not dissected performance into disparate media in the first place. Secondly. 1974. The Problematics of Performance Research Even with the shift toward the study of process and an interest in interdisciplinary studies.146 on Mon. Barber and Farias.129. Haydon and Marks. and M. 1983. 1974). M. Tambiah. song. and so on (see. performance research has been constrained by an objectivist bias in Western epistemology-alternately referred to below as a visualist or materialist bias. Indeed one can contradict the other to set up ambiguity. while Cohen and Odhiambo never aspire to be studying performance per se. The Constraints of Academic Disciplines on Performance Research in Africa Disciplinary boundaries have forced performance in the West.10 In the following discussions. studies that are concerned with how various media function tend to stress their autonomy by drawing distinctions between them. thus maintaining an illusion of exclusivity (see Bloch. 1987. whether music. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . for example. Performance is in this way not only multivocal. 1987. But a gesture or a look can alter the intent and reading of an utterance and vice versa. As a reflection of this general state of affairs. yet they are often treated as if they do because scholars trained in Western disciplines are incapable of dealing with more than one medium. Kapferer. Moreover. and by extension performance research in Africa. or ritual symbols. 1989a). 1989. Scholars have often invoked performance genres. Western academic disciplines remain inadequate for dealing with performance in Africa. I will take each of these points in turn. Lindfors. music. has traditionally been the domain of social 11 This content downloaded from 165. Drewal. Drewal and H. 1977. Drewal. On the other hand. Drewal. Disciplines determine what is studied and how. for example. 1985) and/or in their interrelationships (D. Drewal and M. Ben-Amos. but have not in practice dealt phenomenologically with performance as social process. their study is more performance-centered than many scholars who explicitly claim to be studying such. Such compartmentalization does not reflect African performance practices. 1983.124.11 Media rarely exist in isolation in Africa. Ritual performance. Spenser. 1985. there would be no need for scholars to reintegrate them. poetry. Africanists and others became interested in various ways different media function together in performance (Bloch. 1985. but multifocal. into arbitrary dissected and compartmentalized categories of disparate media such as dance. dance. 1974.Performance in Africa Ironically. McNaughton.

submitting them to pre-established methods and procedures. Karin Barber and P. on the other hand. European photographers and writers in Cairo com- 12 This content downloaded from 165. de Moraes Farias have noted this problem specifically with regard to the study of oral texts. Werbner. one visitor noted. literary critics and folklorists have taken up a stance which combines a limited contextualization (the emphasis being on 'performance' and the immediate conditions of performance) with a formalist analysis of texts (with emphasis on the incidence of wordplay. rather they demand a re-conceptualization and a reorientation in research methodologies. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Bloch. 1989). 1957. Wilson. Mitchell then showed how Orientalist representations indeed corroborated Egyptians' understandings. Against Performance-The Objectivist Bias in Western Epistemology When the Egyptian delegates to the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists visited Europe in 1889. that is. ignoring those features which do not suit their purposes (1989: 1).146 on Mon. y.. de Heusch.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW scientists and historians of religion. . repetition and other literary devices): thus ignoring by and large what the texts actually say. subject to a certain amount of processing. will yield historical Information. To the extent that a text is "an utterance" or "a species of social action" situated in time and place. [. Informed by structuralism. 1985. Indeed the city of Paris. I would argue that literary critics' and folklorists' approaches to performance as "limited contextualization" is indeed not what a performative approach should entail. Rather the study of performance necessarily involves precisely what Barber and Farias advocate in the study of oral texts. or as the unmediated voices of an alien past. F.129. Turner. Buckley. Historians. Comparing the Egyptians' experiences of Europeans to Orientalist writing. and z from different disciplines together into one wholistic study. 1967. rhetoric and poetic license (Barber and Farias. the capacity of a performance. was laid out according to this principle. and be implicated in social and political action" through the use of. 1989: 3). for example. 1986.] Other disciplines too have participated in the selective appropriation of texts. they have often imposed static structural and symbolic models on temporal phenomena (see. Hodder. Thus. The problems cannot be addressed by simply bringing x. 1989).124. "to activate spheres beyond the confines of its own textuality. Thus. Timothy Mitchell has ar- Egyptian author called "the organization of the view" (intizam almanzar) (1989: 221). any performance. The larger point is that disciplines select out whatever dimensions of performance suit them. they were made to feel gued that what Egyptians learned about the West was the way it ordered the world as an endless exhibition through what one as if they were on exhibit (Mitchell. it is already by definition a performance. seem increasingly to be regarding oral texts either as raw material which. 1982. 1985. among other things.

unilinear power relationships.121 contend that objectivism has biased and constrained research on performance in Africa by privileging space over time. It does so by assuming that acquiring knowledge of reality is a formal process of connecting up. thereby to achieve "objectivity. Tyler. then-and only then-is he in a position to apprehend the Other as an objective reality. The politics of the objectivist paradigm is that it sets up unequal." He continued.129. these literal concepts according to rules of logic. a subject position set apart and outside his object. This meant that the Orientalist traveller had to create a distance between himself and the world. a position from where he could see and not be seen. Reason is thus a purely formal capacity to connect up. The phenomenon that Mitchell described is what George Lakoff (1987) and Mark Johnson (1987). Objectivist epistemology holds. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . properties. and others. By this means. Reasoning to gain knowledge of our world is seen as requiring the joining of such concepts into propositions that describe aspects of reality. we need language that expresses concepts that can map onto the objects. according to Mark Johnson.124. separating himself from an object-world and observing it from a position that is invisible and set apart" (1989: 233). reality had to be rendered in picture form. context-independent fashion. though meaningless in themselves. In order for them to make an "accurate" representation. and relations in a literal.146 on Mon. sight over the other senses." "Unaware that the Orient has not been arranged as an exhibition. and to draw inferences from. if at all. By this means. the participantobserver. who traditionally participated minimally. univocal. 1983. And rational thought can be viewed as an algorithmic manipulation of such symbols (1987: x). and draw- 13 This content downloaded from 165. The peculiar position in which Egyptians found themselves in Europe in the late 19th century is the direct effect of the objectivist practice in ethnography whereby subjects are turned into objects through distancing devices that allow the ethnographer to gain perspective. get their meaning by virtue of their capacity to correspond directly to things in the world. "the visitor nevertheless attempts to carry out the characteristic cognitive maneuver of the modern subject. have identified as "objectivism" in Western epistemology. 1987). apprehends culture in precisely the same way a visitor to an exhibit does." Mitchell noted. that reality is constituted by "objects that have properties and stand in various relationships independent of human understanding. to describe an objective reality of this sort. and the graphically written text over the performed (Fabian. what Stephen Tyler has referred to as "the vision quest in the West" (1987: 149-70).Performance in Africa plained of chaos in the streets that would not compose itself into a picture. Words are arbitrary symbols which.

and preferably distant from the knower.STUDIESREVIEW AFRICAN ing inferences from. friendships. Because the objectivist paradigm operates on the condition of unequal. objectivism cannot be extended to performance. but cannot be extended to domains such as political movements. literal concepts that represent things in the object-world. has argued that Yaka people in Zaire privilege smell over sight. Cognition according to this paradigm requires distancing to remove the subject's body (subjectivity) from the object to be known. David Parkin attributes this bias to our search for fixity that is embedded in language. distinct. where space denotes time. he has suggested that olfactory and tactile exchanges between people dissolve the boundaries between self and other and generate a sense of community. In the fundamental. Y. independent of human understandings. unidirectional power relations between knower and known." The seeing/knowing/uncontaminating subject in this way dominates the object of his gaze (unseeing. Indeed. For the same reason. an Through objectivism. objectivist metaphysics works when applied to physical objects in the material world. Drawing on Henri Bergson (1975: 15). an issue well-known in feminist and subaltern studies. as object of knowledge. spatial and temporal. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . are never clear-cut. set and measurable distance. uncontaminated). it is at once sexist and ethnocentric. The ruler's subject and the scientist's object have. As Johannes Fabian has argued. as perceptual image and as illustration of a kind of knowledge.146 on Mon. phenomenalist sense this means that the Other. . inflation. or our foreign policy in which entities and properties. and of observable objectivity" (1982: xxxi).] The hegemony of the visual as a mode of knowing may thus directly be linked to the political hegemony of an age group. The privilege of knowing reality is by default restricted to the "organizer of the view. unknowing. Only the subject who has gained perspective through distancing can achieve cognition. and what is essential and accidental. Rene Devisch (1990). Mudimbe (1988) compelled to counterpenetrate its space in order to 14 This content downloaded from 165. Africa was invented and Zairean scholar V. our emotions. for example. [. that is. Both types of objectification depend on distance. in the intertwined history (1983: 121.124. a class. case of anthropology (but also sociology and psychology). 122). a linear passage between fixed points that are measurable and finite (1982: xxxi).129. Parkin goes on to argue that spatial metaphors for time may explain "the sway of positivist assumptions of fixity. must be separate. Such metaphors in anthropology function to deny coeval relations between researcher and researched. the object of anthropology could not have gained scientific status until and unless it underwent a double visual fixation. As George Lakoff has persuasively argued (1987: 175). or one society over another. marriage.

an attitude which blocks the way for perceiving critical activities outside the 'event. itself in turn defined as its written formulation-the score-rather than for instance. In traditional western musicology 'music' is usually defined as the musical work. Oral poetry is thus equated with an 'oeuvre' and a monument. is human understandings through embodied praxis and imaginative processes such as metaphoric projection.Performance in Africa have a voice. Performance process and the embodied practices and actions of performers as human agents situated in time and place remain largely unresearched. play. research reifies performance as a spatialized representation for mental cognition alone. as if detached from the human bodies that practice it. . so that if something is not written it is assessed as not 'really' music. this in spite of occasional invocations of creativity. Humanistic discourse has been unable to transcend objectivism. [. this definition of music as text leaves out essential elements of the art form as actually practised by performing musicians and experienced by audiences (1988: 125). invention. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .124.129. . most research renders performance static rather than dynamic by adhering to normative structural models-a desire for synchronic "culturalism" (1977: 472). The common flow of all theories of performance is that by portraying oral poetry performance not as one moment in its mode of existence but as the absolute event they unconsciously reify it and endow it with attributes of finiteness typical of written literature. the process of playing or singing or the act of performance. learn musical theory. as in the case of ritual. With few exceptions. What is missing from the objectivist account of the nature of meaning and rationality.146 on Mon. Thus. Thus Olabiyi Yai has criticized that. . . which is peculiarly Western. imagination. Performance is a privileged site for studying the bodily basis of meaning. and the printed word in the case of oral poetry.] where formal music training even in unassuming local schools as well as in conservatoire settings is usually taken to consist in learning to read music: to cope with notation. musical art too tends to be equated with its written form.] As with oral literature. Ruth Finnegan has shown how this works in the study of music. In this way. This emphasis on text is reinforced by the western educational system [. graphic notation in the case of music. or at any rate not worth serious scholarly study. and pass written (not just practical) music examinations.' The truth is that a literary work in oral form is never 'bounded' and that we can grasp fixity?-and what Jean-Jacques Nattiez has termed 15 This content downloaded from 165. and reason. Instead-strongly reflecting a materialist/objectivist bias-most research in Africa renders performance "thinglike" by turning it into structures and sets of symbols. the new concept of performance established as an absolute dries up its heuristic entropy. xiii-xiv). according to Johnson (1987: x.

during and after 'performance. Zebila. A view of performance as social process. dancers. Hodgson. closed system. Hodza and Fortune. 1982. 1982. Although Yai was speaking specifically of oral performance. forming a web of multiple and simultaneous discursive practices. "is a better understanding of the systematics of performance through a progression of actual events" (1989: 11-12). Instead. Rather I want to underscore that their focus derives more from the Western disciplinary tradition than from performances themselves. Victor Turner's model of the ritual process reflects the problem by presupposing a finite. singing-these rarely happen in isolation. scholars isolate them from each other in their representations by focusing on one genre to the exclusion of others. 1980. for Turner (1977a: 166) as for van Gennep before him. rather than as event or enactment. unidimensional structure organized sequentially and normatized-not by performers-but by social scientistic procedures. Meanwhile. For while performers often specialize in certain activities performance genres-drumming. 1983). De Vale. most privilege one mode or medium over all others (Chernoff. Acogny. dancing. I do not want to suggest that such studies have no value. Gorog-Karady. 1985. as drummers. however. Locke. singers. we must dismiss any theory which presents this poetry as a 'product' or a 'work' that has the features of finitude and closure as Implied by these concepts. The aim of this project.AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW oral criticism of oral poetry before. Performance is then reduced to a linear. Opland. according to Richard Werbner.' To be able to understand the oral poetics of oral poetry. How precisely do the major works on performance genres and forms reflect the Western disciplinary tradition and an objectivist or visualist bias? Very few studies examine the range of modes and media of representation interactively in a single performance. ironically. 1979. Turner's expressed aim in the foreword to the 1977 edition of The Ritual Process was "to free" his own thought from "a dependence on 'structure' as the sole sociological dimension" (1977a: viii). This content downloaded from 165.124. 1984. Hanna. his observations could easily apply to the study of all modes of performance in Africa. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1979. 1979. 1980. does not automatically get us beyond spatialization (objectification). 1982. Okpewho. Spenser." 16 1979. process was conceptualized spatially as a movement between "structure and anti-structure"-significantly the sub-title of Turner's book on ritual process. and others are communicating and negotiating with each other in the process of performance. But.129.146 on Mon. Here again is the imbedded assumption that performance is a bounded series of "things. The overall effect of disciplinary boundaries is that scholars fail to comprehend performance as heterological and heteroglossial. we should talk of uninterrupted 'production' (1989: 63). rather than uninterrupted production (1977a). Fabian has referred to these kinds of operations as "the spatialization of time" (1983).

not two discrete processes occurring sequentially one after the other (M. which is equally performative. sensitive to the politics of the moment. sometimes overlapping. a closed.124. 96-98). 1989b).129.146 on Mon. Brincard. structures are not virtual. theater. the latter is the hallmark of art history even though art historians have been profoundly affected by structural and symbolic approaches (see P. Form is always in process. perspectives-the structuralist/symbolic approach and the aesthetic approach. Cole. or a backdrop for studying art objects (R. . art history since the 1970s has treated it as context. oral performance. Comaroff. The sequential model once again renders temporality as spatial passage. Werbner. bodily understandings and imaginings are displaced and subsumed under "events". The former is the hallmark of anthropology although anthropologists such as James Fernandez (1986). are the Western disciplinary tradition and the visualist or objectivist bias manifested in research on performance in Africa? Below I examine the discourse on specific performative genresritual. for the two are accompany exhibitions of artworks. 1989: 13. As David Parkin has argued. In what ways. 1989). In Werbner's view. rather. Ritual The study of ritual reflects two. 1989). Simon Ottenberg (1975. In their studies of ritual. and process is subordinated to structure. for example. Indeed improvisation in performance is rhetorical play based in formality itself. anthropologists have tended to treat performance as a structure of symbols and signs (see. music. Ben-Amos. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . then. Turner. finite a priori structure is seen to propel the performance forward vacillating between formalization in the main phases and improvisation in the interludes (Werbner. 1984.]. In my experience of performance in Africa. also 1980: 62-63). 1988) and Kris Hardin (1987. 1967. and dance-before turning to discourse on medical practice. formalization and improvisation are part and parcel of a single performative process. Thus the subject of performance is often taken up in catalogues produced to analytically to isolate fixed from free forms [. 1985. Drewal. 1985. generated in the moment of production. Bellman. Werbner's dichotomy is intriguingly evocative of Western capitalist distinctions between work (formalization) and play (improvisation). Borgatti. 1988) also have an interest in the aesthetics of performance. Thompson. . 1979. 1974. 1989). Herbert M. "it is wrong only possible through each other and inhere in the presuppositions of all speech and behavior" [emphasis mine] (1982: xxvi-xxvii.13 Studies of ritual by art historians that are not dependent on the exhibition of art objects and that treat specific performance traditions include Anita Glaze's study of Senufo initiation ritual and funerary rites (1981). Cole's treatment of Owerri Igbo Mbari house- 17 This content downloaded from 165. to be generated by performers in situated moments of performing as in Giddens' sense of structuration (1984). F.Performance in Africa In positing a "the systematics of performance"-whose systematics?-the agency of performers as producers is lost.

1989b)." then how would Turner account for the rapid spread over the last twenty years of Yoruba religious practice among black and white Americans in urban centers such as New York. exaggeration. differently? And why make ritual originary and Western forms of performance somehow derivative?15 Since Victor Turner's theories have been influential in performance studies as a whole16 and since the major portion of his fieldwork was in Africa. we examined Yoruba Gelede masked performance in honor of women's power as an ensemble of carved wooden headpieces. there is an assimilation of old and new material. dances. Actually. It is no accident that this process is the same in theater as it is in ritual.146 on Mon. Thus during the workshop/rehearsal process to restore behavior. rhythmic action. ritual and theater. Drewal. "the workshop-rehearsal process is the basic machine for the restoration of behavior. there has been a more or less explicit asymmetrical construction in the distinction between so-called tribal ritual and modern ritual.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW building as ritual process (1982). Schechner takes Turner's model and opens it up. Whether such an original matrix can ever be restored. for such a regression is at the same time a resynthesis of that which the division of labor has decisively put asunder (Turner. and Los Angeles-to name only a few?14 Richard Schechner (1986: 363) has suggested that the rehearsal and preparation process of theater is identical to the ritual process as presented by Turner. 1984: 2526). simplification. so that research on ritual in Africa is already by definition the study of the temporally distanced Other (see Fabian.124. short of the extinction of those power sources that sustain complex modern economiesshort of. This construct surfaced explicitly in one of Victor Turner's last essays. I want to track the development of certain If the division of labor has put tribal ritual asunder in "complex modern economies. based on Van Gennep. employ "repetition. 1985: 113). M. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Chicago. and John Nunley's work on the politics of masking in Freetown. Why then do we tend to conceive such similar practices so 18 This content downloaded from 165. cloth costumes. Sierra Leone (1987). therefore. Miami. Schechner said. In my own work with Henry Drewal. For it is the basic function of both theater and ritual to restore behavior" (Schechner. More importantly. Thus. transformations of that material. 'retribalization'-is a moot point. 99). I am not happy about certain attempts to make theater regress to ritual.129. songs. it is only by the dismemberment of tribal ritual that modern religious and neurotic rituals have become specialized and distinct from their multidimensional performative original. the transformation of 'natural sequences' of behavior into 'composed sequences'" (1977: 136). In the anthropological literature in particular. Both ritual and theater. 1983. and finally a re-creation that then becomes material for further restorations (1985: 40. and drumming (1983).

. in a seemingly revised view of ritual in 1983. and Metaphors (1974) in which he began to develop the idea of social process in terms of the liminal and the liminoid. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and with them vanish the ritual symbols. Only among those least influenced by technological change is ritual able to maintain its function. reveals that Turner distinguishes between the rituals of preindustrial and postindustrial societies (the "liminal" and the "liminoid") with regard to their capacities to engender novelty. it would seem that ritual symbolism can only flourish where there is a thriving corporate life.146 on Mon. Wherever our kind of Western Individualism crops up in Central Africa. whereby groups and individuals adjust to internal changes and adapt to their external environment (222).. [. Hence. and they imply some kind of general consent as to their meaning. In 1968. the tribal religions wilt and perish in a surprisingly short time. [. Turner's first acknowledgment of the generative potential of ritual was published in the forward to the 1977 edition of The Ritual Process (1977a: vii. by definition. he maintained another point of view. 1977). For example. . ritual is. Moore and Myerhoff. It is curious that most of the literature that acknowledges the generative potential of ritual focuses on so-called liminoid societies or on secular ritual (Turner.Performance in Africa ideas.' which is an ethical feature of 'cyclical. ritual is not necessarily a bastion of social conservatism whose cherished sociocultural values. If the present rapid tempo of change in Africa.. and perhaps the social generation of new religious symbols. Only with the increasing anthropological interest in Western. repetitive societies. 1982. a source for the creation of culture and structure.] Performances of ritual are distinctive phases in the social process. fewer people take part in public ritual. Where novelty and change characterize the life of a society. 1977b. A close examination. symbols merely condense its liminal processes-it holds the generating Rather-through source of culture and structure. Fields. cultures have scholars begun to explore ritual's creative potential. then we may have a widespread revival of particIpation in ritual. "even joking must observe the 'the golden mean. associated with social transition (movement from one social state to another).129.' not as yet 19 This content downloaded from 165. The symbols are related to the process of adjusting the individual to the traditional social order into which he is born. as well as the regeneration of many existing ones (Turner.124. or postindustrial. however. however. In an article originally published in Rice University Studies in 1974. 1968: 22-23). Turner suggested. Thus. and the social mobility it is promoting. are ever slowed down and stabilized into a social order that will continue in much the same form over many years. . By then he had already published Dramas. Turner's observation goes far beyond his earlier statements and attributes to ritual a generative dimension. he wrote. 1977b: 40).

20 This content downloaded from 165. Zimbabwe (1985). and Richard Fardon on Chamba interpretations of ritual (1991)-all suggest ways of understanding and treating ritual performance that preserve local discursive knowledge. people "gain the sense of thought and reflection" (1988: 35). Turner clearly moved away from a static view of ritual theoretically. innovation is sacrificed to maintenance. occultism. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . In a later chapter. Drewal on the pan-African worship of a water spirit believed to be European (1988a. "in tribal and agrarian cultures. Henry J. and especially in all societies which have been shaped by the Industrial Revolution" (28-29). even relatively complex ones. and Drama?"-re-inscribed his evolutionary schema of the liminal and the liminoid. the innovative potential of ritual liminality seems to have been circumscribed. even dormant.124.AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW unbalanced by innovative ideas and technical changes. The works of Terrence Ranger on the invention of tradition in Colonial Africa (1985). a view of ritual inversion itself as conventionality. and practices in Africa. his African data seemed pressed more into the service of maintaining our view of Africa's existing social orders. 1988b). Of particular note is Professor Bosumprah Kwabena Otumfor's treatise on spiritualism. With a few exceptions. Kratz on the problematics of the concept of "tradition" in relation to Okiek initiation ceremonies (1989). then. he is expressly concerned with conveying the value of what he does. Drewal on the practice of improvisation in Yoruba ritual (1989b). There is also a growing body of literature written by ritual practitioners themselves.146 on Mon. Ritual. ritual practitioners have remained nameless and faceless in the history of ethnography of ritual. For so-called liminal societies. Technical innovations are the products of ideas. yogism.129. perceptions. Implicit in Turner's formulation is that ritual in preindustrial societies is prior and fixed. Turner-in his epilogue entitled "Are There Universals of Performance in Myth. Through ritual. In a piece by Kolawole Ositola. and mysticism (1979). or pressed into the service of maintaining the existing social order" (85). Ositola sees rites of passage as "progressive" in that they establish for the individual a productive course of action in life. David Lan on how guerrillas gained acceptance as autochthons among local ritual practitioners in Dande. Elsewhere. he continued. Morris Meyer on the artificial boundaries between art and science as evident in scholars' representations of medical practice (1990). scholars have begun to historicize ritual and to deal with it on its own terms instead of applying external models. which blends several religious traditions. Corinne A. however. As late as 1985. Turner stated the "capacity for variation and experiment becomes more clearly dominant in societies in which leisure is sharply demarcated from work. rather than simply describing and analyzing. Margaret T. the products of which I will call the 'liminoid" (1982: 32). while that in industrialized societies is recent and innovative. More recently.

method. the materialist/objectivist bias remains as the guiding feature of research. so that the ebb and flow of a performance is never in fact examined. Merriam's model was ahistorical. ethnomusicologists have adopted event-centered approaches (Adams. Stone. and sought to understand the relationships between social context and music sound.146 on Mon. 1982: 127.129. continue to be treated as products. Since the 1970s. and techniques for research are explicated. 1984: Ruth Stone referred to the bifurcation between social context and sound production as "behavior" versus "sound" ethnomusicologists (1982: xv). 1983. 4) music itself is a product. Champio^n"bl"the former approach was Alan Merriam in his The Anthropology of Music (1964). for example. Stone was specifically concerned with the issue of time. A specific event is never presented because scholars following a social science model derived from anthropology insist on normatizing. The latter-the aesthetic approachis exemplified by Hugo Zemp's Musique Dan (1971) in his focus on music sound. This led Stone to comment that "researchers of both extremes consider products as the main focus of study. whose research model was seminal in the history of ethnomusicology (Rice. The concern with product means that discrete entities are the items of dat -amaipulated so that the ebb and flow of performance communication is not considered" (1982: 19). events. method. thus. rather like anthropological models of the day. Behavior ethnomusicologists assume: 1) theory. taken for granted. Behague. sound ethnomusicologists assume: 1) theory. 1982. In contrast. In this way. In Dried Millet Breaking (1988a). contrasting with 'process' which might also be studied. 1988a) in an attempt to explore the event's processual nature and participants' interactions. and techniques used in music research are implicit. 1987: 469).research resists normatizing. 3) description and analysis of music itself is primary and th. Note points 4 and 5 of Stone's comparison are shared by both camps. the classification of instruments. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .124. and melodic intervals. a problem that remains central in ethnomusicology (Stone. Stone refers to them as "social products" (1982: 25). an object of study. rhythm. Besmer. an object of study.Performance in Africa Music and Ethnomusicology Like research on ritual in Africa. and performance practice. 5) the ethnomusicologist is objective. as well as John Blacking (1967) on the pitch patterns of Venda children's songs.17 Even so. the study of music is bifurcated between cultural and aesthetic approaches. She then laid out the distinctions summarized below (1982: 18-20). 2) music behavior is a social product resulting from rules and norms. 5) the ethnomusicologist is objective. 21 This content downloaded from 165. 3) the goal is to explain behavior and to discover the norms. 4) music itself is a product. In 7). 1974. as well as the participants. 2) songs are treated as products to be graphically notated and measured in terms of scale.

AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW describing a specific performance.146 on Mon. Thus: The epic singer finds a questioner (mare-kee-ke-nuu) among the crowdto pose the crucialquestionsthroughout and to createa dialogue with the singer as he moves throughhis story. 1989)? In a section titled "Variationin the Woi Epic. Present tense leaves the impression that the performance is always the same.124.His part removes the storyteller-singer frombeinga lone actor and sets up a crucialtransactional approachto the performance (1988a:3). normatizing it with the use of the timeless present tense. The reader gets a sense of how the performance is organized. eventcentered approaches tend to reify performance as a product rather than as a contingent flow of conduct produced through the discursive interactions of individual performers. Without examining specific performances in time and place. The questioner prods the epic singer at crucial points.129. but we do not have access to word play. asking who is speakingor wonderingout loud how such a fantasticthing could have. In the introductory chapter. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . other versions include a frog with short hands that cause difficulty in pumping" (Stone. Gelede performance was described based on a compilation of many discrete performances witnessed in several different parts of Yoruba country. From the description. As I have already suggested. 1988a: 11). But the normatized performance is not performance at all. it sounds as though the performance would have involved an improvised dialogue. There is only one brief discussion of an actual performance (145-46). and invariably the bellows pumper is not able to do a very efficient job. bounded. which is a key theme in Stone's book? Nowhere do we get a sense of changes in the temporal flow of the production as different performers render it or the rhetorical strategies used by individual performers. or subtle and contingent rhetorical tactics that combine both the linguistic and paralinguistic and that supplement and alter meaning through improvisation. What Stone does give us is a translated transcript of the verbal exchanges. or "transactions. speakingwhat others are thinkingand creating comic scenes with his commentaryon what is happening. but how was it actually played out and negotiated in a particular case? And how was the performance implicated in social and political action beyond the performance itself in its use of rhetoric and poetic license (Barber and Farias." the changes from one narrator to another were viewed strictly in terms of thematic content. Drewal. happened. "the iron-forging episode is common. she was atemporal." during a particular performance. 1983). it is 22 This content downloaded from 165. Instead of the sleeping bird. however. body movements and gestures. What about time. in fact. My own work on Gelede suffers from similar problems (H. Drewal and M. As questioner he represents the audience. Thus.

For many folklorists. have established the boundaries between text and context without genre theory. LaPin. particularly the work of J. it seems to me. 1972. Scheub. socially situated performance meant nothing more than a normatized. objects for study-the verbal texts were thus decontextualized. knowledgeable agents. production is absented. 1975. among others. Barber and Farias. 1964. As literature. By omission. Performance-centered approaches in folklore that strove to integrate history. More problematic: where does text leave off and context begin. Ben-Amos. 1971. and John W. product gets foregrounded. equating it with an 'objective' description of what exists in the situation of a performance" (1988: 14). prior to 1986. Austin (1962) and Dell Hymes (1962. Turned into "things"-artifacts. Briggs pointed out. Oral Performance Oral performance in Africa is usually treated either as literature or as folklore (see. "most definitions of context are positivistic. Dorson. Lindfors. Tala. by Judith Gleason (1981). for example. 8). it sets the text off as a singular object of study against a background delimited by the folklorist. and between the genre and what is outside its frame. Johnson (1986) has continued throughout the 1980s alongside situated studies of oral performance. it conceals intertextual relations between performances. 1967). among others. This perspectival view is akin to foreground and background in realist painting. 1980). society. 1977. the graphic description becomes the context.129. Once again. between genres. 1972.124. and treated as a fixed text until 1980 (Seitel. such studies are not about performance. This practice represented. 1989). 1971. and rendered statically. the study of folklore in Africa began to be concerned specifically with performance and the socially situated communicative context of meaning and metaphor only in the 1970s (D.Performance in Africa impossible to understand the rhetoric and politics put into play by active. Although useful. Young. stripped from the performative situation in which they were uttered. in the words of J. oral performance in Africa was translated and transcribed. 1984. frozen on the printed page. "still a promise to be fulfilled" (1986: 440). Cosentino. The text/context field establishes a perspectival view reflecting the objectivist gaze of the folklorist. which serves to frame a text and block it off from everything outside it. One of the 23 This content downloaded from 165. Strongly influenced by sociolinguistics. 1985: 47 n. Veronika GorogKarady (1982). As music notation becomes the object studied." As Charles L. however. and how does a researcher delimit a "context"? Folklorists could not. Limon and M. 1982. L. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1977. J. and culture in their particularistic studies of events. E. The politics of this practice seems to have been the attempt to put the verbal arts in Africa on an equal footing with Western literature. had remained. BenAmos and Goldstein. between different social groups.146 on Mon. ahistorical description of "context.

traditional proscenium theater bestows on the director the power to organize the gaze of the spectator through the theatrical techniques of staging. Honko has noted. 1988. and ethnomethodology (Keenan. dialogical theater. Briggs have recently advocated a move from "context" to "contextualization. By attempting a participatory.18To be sure. Paolo Freire's concept of a pedagogy of the oppressed (1970) and Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed (1979).146 on Mon. 1990. embedding assessments of its structure and significance in the speech itself" (1990: 67-68). as L. sociolinguistics. One of the mediums of such expression is 24 This content downloaded from 165.124. In response. Irvine. this kind of work has already begun by those doing discourse analysis. Unequal power relationships obtain: the power remains with the person who organizes the spectator's view.20 Boal developed the idea of a problem-posing theater.REVIEW AFRICAN STUDIES problems was. for example. Facial expressions and hand gestures. oral tradition. 1989. and conversation. which is built into the very structure of proscenium stage theater with its institutionalized division between spectators and performers. demands approaches that can accommodate more than speech acts. 1976. 1990). 1979. which also grew out of the philosophy of language. 1980. the theaters of resistance in Africa were at once striving to overcome what I have characterized as the objectivist paradigm. True to the objectivist paradigm.129. however. Dominance is simply displaced to another position. In contrast to the Boalian approach. Murphy. Theater Of all the research on performance in Africa. that performance folkloristics relied heavily on observation." that dialogizes audience and performers as a grass-roots approach to development. According to Gaurav Desai. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Kratz. rather than "face-to-face knowledge of the speaker or vivid perception of the scene and participants of communication" (1985: 43). work in conjunction with utterances. by its very nature demands a serious appreciation of the cultural and socioeconomic conjunctures as they are understood by the people. Parkin. its role in nation-state building and creating national identities as well as its role in resistance and social change. in which all other related action is regarded as secondary (paralinguistic). oratory. itself based on Freire's seminal work. in this case the director rather than viewer. the performers do not usually return the gaze. that is. it would be impossible to understand the import of the transactions. Without taking all of these aspects into account. were instrumental (see Desai. Richard Bauman and Charles L." which "involves an active process of negotiation in which participants reflexively examine the discourse as it is emerging. not destroyed. termed "forum theater. those who have written on theater have been most sensitive to the politics of performance. Understanding performance as discourse.19 In many of these theaters of resistance. 1990b). a dialogic research practice [in a grass-roots approach to development]. 1973.

not only formulating its underlying assumptions and procedures. simply reports the theater's activities.21 Dance Of all genres of performance. It prompted former dancers-turned-anthropologists such as Judith Lynne Hanna (1979) and Anya Peterson Royce (1977) to attempt to legitimate dance as a relevant subject of research in the human sciences.129. the emotional.andit is this populartheatrical enterprise workersin Africaare increasthat a great numberof community ingly adoptingboth for heuristicas well as politicallyemancipatory purposes(1991). More significantly.22 Often improvisational. Dance. however. In "The Politics of African Dance Research. dance is the least studied. The problem is that dance in Africa proves to be virtually impossible to research from a materialist/objectivist standpoint because it has not been successfully transformed into graphic notation and it doesn't stand still for structural or symbolic analyses. The position of dance as a stepchild of the arts in the United States. it is therefore the most elusive of all genres of performance. successfully engineered the mind/body split. In addition to the mind/body split. the sensual. the tradition of Objectivism deriving from the philosophies of Descartes and Kant. The relative successes and failures of specific theater groups in achieving the Freirean and Boalian ideals have been reviewed by Desai in his "Theater as Praxis: Discursive Strategies in African Popular Theater" (1990b). "while dance research in Africa in the 80's interprets the movement behavior of others in less stereotypic ways than 25 This content downloaded from 165. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Knowledge." Sarah von Fremd has argued that. The Objectivist project was influential in social science research. Much of the literature on theater for development. women. the penultimate expression of the body in motion for its own sake. is objective rather than subjective. taking the mind out of the body. it also falls conceptually into the domain of the female and the Black. although film and video recording have made it more concrete and thus accessible. hence disembodied. according to this line of thought. relegated in universities either to physical education or theater departments (the practical versus the intellectual) is another manifestation of the objectivist bias. and the sexual. but determining what was worthy of study.Performance in Africa the theatreof the people. theoretically detaching all rationality and reason from embodied experience. they have also identified the Puritan ethic and the conversion of the body into an instrument of capitalist production as contributing factors to the lowly position of dance in relation to other forms of human expression. and gay men have historically been identified with dancing more so than any other creative activity.124. No wonder Africans. is by contrast linked to the subjective. sometimes called forum theater. according to Johnson (1987).146 on Mon.

124.. Von Fremd's position is allied with Olabiyi Yai's proposal." She continued. it does not directly grapple with the political issues of its own discourse." From Geoffrey Gorer's 1930s notion of the "ordered savagery" and "frenzied rhythmic precision" in African dance (1935) to Hugh Tracey's 1950s assertion that without dance life in Africa would lose all meaning (1952). [. quoted above. such as Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus. to study oral poetry as uninterrupted production. It did so by upholding the mind/body split that privileged mind over body and appealing to popular stereotypes based on eugenics. . African choreographer/dancers have taken to writing about their own dance. black performers. even though healer/patient relationships and medical proce- 26 This content downloaded from 165. but also explain their methods and provide instruction on particular movements and gestures.146 on Mon. Morris Meyer argued. which associated brain development with race.129. "the translation of the dance field in anthropological language with an elaborate model for gathering and categorizing dance 'texts' still has political implications when Westerners attempt to read inner meanings of African cultures. Recently.. which only fixes that culture on the written page as a static social fact for an archive. von Fremd pointed out. Meanwhile. but because they represented themselves as promoting African-derived styles of dance they never achieved the kind of critical acclaim bestowed on so-called high art forms such as ballet. according to von Fremd.REVIEW AFRICAN STUDIES in the past. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Such a reconceptualization would help to challenge the embedded biases in the West's dominant image of African dancing and resist the tendency to account for African movement primarily in terms of what it says about a particular population generally. Lucky Zebila of Congo (1982) and Alphonse Tierou of Ivory Coast (1989) not only present their conceptualizations of African dance. In a recent review of scholars' representations of African medical practices. were challenging the European balletic tradition in their own performance practices here in the United States and elsewhere. dance research served "to support popular stereotypes and politically contain populations in Africa and the diaspora" (von Fremd. That was political too. a new conception of dance in culture generally is needed. 1989). Rather than a fixed text. Medical Practice One of the most glaring instances of the disjunction between Western academic subjects and African performance practices is found in studies of medical practice in Africa. and a recognition of how Individualperformers use and interpret its various fluid and poetic forms. it would become a fluid discourse creating multiple meanings depending on how the performers are situated and how they negotiate their identities in specific settings. In her conclusions.

primarily that in Nigeria and Ghana during the two decades following World War II when the promise of freedom from colonial rule brought to the fore for Africans all sorts of self-reflexive questioning about acculturation and cultural identity. flanking quotation marks to insinuate that 'medicine'] is a fanciful delusion held by people who have not the benefit of truth as yielded by western scientific medicine" (Meyer. which by that time had al27 This content downloaded from 165.] 'sickness' [or even All our researches on Africa are after all political whether we recognize it or not.' in which a condition of lack and perpetual deficiency is ascribed to the subject. to the achievement of a genuine independence" (ix). it is used to disqualify traditional healing as Science. And the study of performance is especially political because it involves research on performers as they make choices and take action in particular historical and social situations. 1990). . the interpretation of African traditional medicine by western medical scientists is an example of what Michel de Certeau has termed 'negative testing.146 on Mon. handing it over to social scientists who are freed from tackling burdensome questions regarding the politics of medical authority. First. [. who viewed the uncritical importation of Western concepts and paraphernalia as inimical. it reconceptualizes the research topic as Art. doubtful.129.124. Robert W. the split between art and science cannot tolerate conceptualizing a theatrical science or a scientific theater. July revised his mid-1960s perspective. . second. even dangerous. "those sarcastic. this time acknowledging. Rather than totally rejecting the West. The latter is the domain of social scientists who in their writing often use. "while Western ideas and institutions played a decisive role in creating a modern Africa. In this case. In An African Voice. July attempted to give us some insight into the politics of African performance discourse. Methodology and The Politics of Performance In An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence. July's work is a first attempt to examine the political history of the humanities in Africa that extends beyond literary movements. As Meyer has argued provocatively. medical science uses its own practices as the normative standard from which to evaluate African healing based solely on the degree of interface with or deviation from the methods of the researchers. July's book is presented as a sequel to The Origins of Modern African Thought in which he "argued the importance of Western thought and institutions in the ideology that fueled independence in Africa" (ix).Performance in Africa dures are highly performative. The presence of theatricality in African medicine fulfills two functions. there were Africans who hesitated. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The study of African medicine is itself then split between herbalism (pharmacological models) and divination/ritual (dramaturgical and symbolic models).

places. and in which they develop and transform (Hutcheon. 1978: 20)? Have they indeed fused the relevant and the beneficial-as July order to draw strength from the best of both Africa and suggests-in 28 This content downloaded from 165. or have they succeeded in contesting. and in some cases direct quotes from African humanists-choreographers. methods. Part of the problem. they perpetuated the Western system not only in their arts.] drawing strength from the best of both Western and African civilization" (x). This is reflected in Western discourse in the compartmentalization of the arts and contests over whether anthropology and ethnomusicology fall within the purview of the social sciences or the humanities (see Karp. 1986. presenting it as "an African voice. But why in the mid-1980s-some twenty years later-did it occur to July that there was something fundamentally African in African independence? And how did he come to realize that it was expressed. . while by comparison performers not trained in Western media and genres remain largely unnamed and thus silent in scholarly research on performance. lies in the boundaries created by Western academic disciplines which channel inquiry into distinct domains and constrain them with preestablished methods and practices.124. 1988). they instead sought "modernized versions of traditional culture that might be married to those imports from the West that were seen to be relevant and beneficial to African life [. in the humanistic discourse? What happened between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s was a renewed awareness that the arts and humanities cannot be cut off from the political and economic environment which sustains them. and/or undermining it? Orto put it another way-where are African humanists located strategically within their written and performed texts (Said. 1987). dramatists.STUDIESREVIEW AFRICAN ready made an indelible imprint. it is a useful compendium of names. but in their institutions of higher learning based on European models. The significance of July's book lies in the critical questions it inadvertently raises. and Rice. more descriptive than analytic or critical. His chapter on literary perspectives of cultural independence is nothing more than a superficial discussion of the thematic content in selected literature. This is what July counterposes to his earlier book. resisting. dates. indeed negotiated. and modes of performance? If so. But that is not the entire explanation. composers." July's history is basically reportage.129. and others. Nevertheless.146 on Mon. When Africans began to adopt Western media and genres of performance during the colonial period. or appealing romantically to an African past. July's book is a reflection of the boundary problem in Western academic disciplines. as I have indicated above. It is understandable how these performers came to be identified in the literature. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . . Have African humanists successfully inhabited the space of the Western episteme in their appropriation of Western languages. have they reinforced the dominant discourse of the former colonialists.

cultural identity.Performance in Africa the West? Have they successfully put into practice a "counterpenetration" in All Mazrui's words (cited in July. [. yet seamless. Mackenzie 1881:376ff. description of the initiation ritual drawn from several different sources dating from 1909to 1970: The data on which this account Is based are taken largely from two lengthy descriptions published by missionaries In scholarly journals (Willoughby 1909.. or at the very least individual accounts of particular performances).. Campbell 1822. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2:172ff. both are concerned with history and politics-topics it would be difficult to ignore given the conditions of apartheid-and both claim to be interested in the dialectics of performance. Holub 1881. a representation of social reality at a particular point (a spatialization of time). It is in this difference that Comaroff locates the transformation. vol. vol."she at once renders performance thinglike. And I suspect there would be more than one African voice to be heard! A brief comparison of two recent books on performance genres in Africa will serve here to underscore the points raised above: Body of Power. Her account is a reification in that it is a composite. Comaroff's concern here is not with the power of performing bodies to transform ritual performance itself (which would mean that to historicize performance she would have to study individual performances of a ritual..] But the material has been contrasted with that available in the early sources (Kirby 1939. 1:271ff. Rather she is concerned with the difference between precolonial and colonial ritual. each an objectification of the social system at a particular point" (8). finally. and positions herself firmly within the objectivist tradition. so that its sequential logic may emerge" (95). vol. and independence? A cultural critique of performance as philosophical and political discourse during the colonial and post-colonial periods in African history might address these very questions. These data were also comple- 29 This content downloaded from 165.124. she shifts her attention away from the performing body onto "the structure of the rites layer by layer.. both studies are situated in South Africa. By assigning to ritual "objectification. .146 on Mon. Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People by Jean Comaroff (1985) and In Township Tonight!: South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre by David B. 1:398ff. Comaroff begins by asserting that "this study of Tshidi transformations centers on the contrast between two focal ritual complexes. 243)? And. My distinction is crucial particularly because Comaroff is expressly interested in the body as a signifier. Published in the same year by acknowledged social scientists. Coplan (1985). what was happening concurrently in other kinds of performance such as rituals and festivals? Were they not also concerned with the uncritical importation of Western concepts and paraphernalia.129. Brown 1921. But when she begins to examine precolonial ritual in Chapter 4.).

"it is the very fact that these rituals must inevitably fail in the long run that accounts both for the sociocultural form of the Zionist groups and for their stereotypic reproductions. Furthermore it is doubtful that the distanced. Thus. objectivist view from without can comprehend the intricacies of the goings on. Indeed normative accounts that focus on symbols and sequences tend to be disembodied and cannot account for human agency at all. and resistance as they are put into practice dialectically by performers in the moment of production. There is no analysis of a specific performance situated in time and place. but it cannot cope adequately with the vicissitudes of power. ahistorical normative standard.124. Any normative account of ritual performance is necessarily limited. in the moment of production. as well as the performance that bodies produce collaboratively. To operate on the assumption that performance is a product of some other reality that it serves to represent is to take an essentialist position on reality and how representation works. a questionable underlying assumption that such a shift means simultaneously a move from communality to individuality and from conservatism to experimentation. The normative approach to performance is typical of anthropological studies of ritual. 4). The performing body. it is symbols that convert implicit social meanings into 'communication currency'" (197). is always constituted in time and place. reifying it as a timeless. and is never merely a product of a particular point in a social system. but what happens in the shift from studying ritual to studying popular music and theater? There is. This assumption is implicit in the methods of Comaroff and Coplan.146 on Mon. rather ritual in general is seen as a normatized set of symbols that convey messages: "Of course. Performance for Coplan "demonstrates that it is not simply the power of the tale but the fresh and artful nature of the telling that 30 This content downloaded from 165. yet they are seamlessly woven together into a single unified narrative.129. it seems. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . But they do so for whom-the performer or the owner of the privileged gaze? There are no local voices explaining themselves in her text. nor is it evident where the various accounts do and do not correspond. On the whole.AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW mented by my observations of an Initiation cycle. Comaroff's sources span over half a century. the construction of messages through the medium of symbols is the essence of all ritual. and there is no evidence that the performers got the same meanings from the ritual as did Comaroff. determination. With this methodology. to assume such a position is effectively to deny human agency. she in fact dehistoricizes precolonial ritual. held in one of the subdivisions of the Mafekingdistrict in 1970 (269 n. which is in fact what Comaroff ultimately seems to do. it is unclear how her 1970 observations figure into the account." Only if one were to assume a subjugated body in Foucault's sense could one posit stereotypic reproduction. Moreover. Not only is it ahistorical.

and East Africa use exotic images of mermaids.Performancein Africa turns performance into transformation" (6). historically situated. Coplan's are named. Central.129. in this case performers in Africa of a wide variety. and sometimes even quoted. In order to understand both performance and the behavior underlying it as parts of a total system. has shown how in East Africa. Performance discourse then includes that of academics as well as that of their subjects of study. At the conclusion of the last chapter. Performance discourse also involves relations between the past and agents' interpretations. the arenas where human agents-scholars and performers alike-construct theory and practice and continually renegotiate them. and politics. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Coplan raises many significant questions. in which people invent performance to mediate social change (1975: 166). and transformations of that past in present theory and practice across modes and genres of representation. for example. and even across cultures. Performance is situated in theory and practice and in history. in order to 31 This content downloaded from 165. he advocated studying other dance modes that have spread throughout the area in order to determine to what extent Beni is part of a general historical trend in eastern African culture. inscriptions. the question remains as to whether the performing arts can become a source of power available for use in other contexts (242). T. In contrast to Comaroff's performers. interpreting them according to indigenous precepts and investing them with new meaning. we must look at these theories with regard to: how and in what ways relationships among elements are reordered in performance. O. people claimed and used "European" symbols to produce the Beni ngoma dance to mediate colonialism (1975). Coplan begins with a discussion of the performing arts in 19th-century South Africa. . moving in subsequent chapters to the period 1900-20. how the usage of particular procedures is restricted to one group of performers or participants as opposed to others.] Assuming that power is by nature transformable. Henry Drewal (1988b) has demonstrated how peoples all across West. to 1940-60 in Sophiatown. [. Ranger. snake charmers. And in his study of Mami Wata performance practices.124. the means a performer uses to articulate his position in the context of social conflict. and Hindu spirits. society. . His theory is set off from the rest of the book. to the period between the World Wars. but his theory lacks a methodology that can cope with complex social and political processes and practices of which performance is part and parcel. Additionally. and finally from the 1960s to the present.146 on Mon. how particular expressive choices shift the definition of a performance situation. confined to the last chapter which is entitled "Conclusion: the social dialectics of performance" and ends with suggestions for future directions in research: Performance products themselves contain signs of the processes through which performers have realised their theoretical choices.

He did so by examining the referential power of Orientalist discourse and showing us how our own representations of the Other in graphic writing tell more about us and the way we think than they tell about any non-Western reality. That is equally true of my own textual production in this critique of the state of research on performance in Africa. an American initiate into the ritual practice of Olokun. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . If African priests of Mami Wata become European spirits through possession trance as a means of coming to terms with capitalism and neocolonialism. specifically Western images of Africa. were produced by some lore. . It was Edward Said who first made clear how representations acquire power through their intertextuality (1978). or to contest." Mudimbe asserts. 1988). as is graphic writing. "Like Wata devotees 'study' them from impressions. writings. like African representations of Mami Wata. Drewal then acknowledged that. Neutrality is an impossibility. His critique has implications for the study of performance in Africa. where philosophy is enacted and multiple and often simultaneous discourses are employed. Performance in Africa. and other evidence as if they dynamic ways. missionaries. 1987: 20. V.] Their study of our 'ways'-our 32 This content downloaded from 165. Shapiro. is a primary site for the production of knowledge.124. "that. "The fact of the matter is.] Does this mean that African Weltanschauungen and external 'thing'. but rather as transformational process (kinesis)-either to reinforce dominant or established discourses. who have privileged external procedures in their analyses-and lastly philosophy." Drewal wrote. 1988). indeed representation-not as mimesis (the visualization of some internal idea or feeling). The point is that performers and scholars alike are engaged in re-presentation. resist. "Mami others-overseas visitors-and generalize experiences.146 on Mon. drawing heavily from Michel Foucault. transforming our symbols into theirs" (1988b: 160). Mudimbe has tackled closely related issues in The Invention of Africa (1988). [. In each case. then medium Norma Rosen.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW in new and themselves represent anthropologists. Western interpreters as well as African analysts [emphasis mine] have been using categories and conceptual systems which depend on a Western epistemological order. and ideologists. the Bini god of the sea. interspersing Rosen's own commentary on her experience. Joseph Nevadomsky has written in detail on Rosen's initiation. .. and undermine them (Tyler. [. More recently. is playing an inversion of that structure back in the other direction in her adaptation of the religion to Long Beach. Y. his own representation is an objectification. California (Nevadomsky and Rosen. even if unconsciously. Mudimbe. he is concerned with history.129. attempts an "archaeology" of knowledge about Africa by analyzing "the processes of transformation of types of knowledge" (x). or patterns of worship-is actually a resymbolization of them. until now. . the power of colonialism and its culture bearersanthropologists. possessions.

1983). rather than a distinct. Perhaps ironically. subjectivity and objectivity. and engaging in a more truly dialogical relationship with our subjects of study so that both researcher and researched are coeval participants in performance discourse (Fabian.Performancein Africa African traditional systems of thought are unthinkable and cannot be made explicit within the framework of their own rationality? My own claim is that thus far the ways in which they have been evaluated and the means used to explain them relate to theories and methods whose constraints. Like Foucault's work. Fieldwork as Performance/Performance as Fieldwork Treating fieldwork as performance means placing the emphasis on the participant side of the participant/observer paradigm.24 But the problem is. The essential question that Mudimbe's work raises is. breaking down the boundaries between self and other. of that being which has been so far a mere object of the discourses of social and human sciences" (34). a handful of Africanist anthropologists have also moved in this direction. as Karin Barber has noted. it is a reaction against Western epistemology. way of knowing. The great paradox of Mudimbe's work.124. or even an African. indeed to put the body back into performance requires a methodology that can cope with the temporality and contingency not only of performance. and systems of operation suppose a non-African epistemological locus" (x). how can African traditional systems of thought be made explicit within the framework of their own discourse and rationality? Towards Temporality: Theory and Praxis in Future Research on Performance in Africa To overcome objectivist epistemology.146 on Mon. to restore the body to the mind. "studying with the passion of the Other. subject and object. dismantling it and thereby contesting it in and on its own terms. It is an "inversed figure of the Same" (180)-to adopt Mudimbe's characterization of the politics of alterity. Mudimbe is in his words.23 More recently. however. But doesn't Mudimbe's own argument rely on Western epistemology together with its theories and methods? As a Zairean scholar. but of social life. in its shift from positivistic observation of social facts to participatory interpretation of human ex- 33 This content downloaded from 165. "the kind of collaboration that social science. is that it is trapped inside the very discourse it critiques. This has been accomplished most successfully in the past by ethnomusicologists who have mastered African instruments and music styles and who therefore can join in the music production. His argument is powerfully persuasive precisely because he has successfully inhabited the space of the Western episteme. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . rules.129. this is the real accomplishment of Mudimbe's work.

the more embodied the practice becomes so that at some point performing becomes second nature. That would be true of highly formalized practices that require apprenticeships with years of training in order to master the techniques of drumming or carving. for example. there are many diverse kinds of roles researchers can take in addition to more technical kinds of performance. Yet Henry Drewal (1980) apprenticed himself to a carver in the 1960s and returned to western Yorubaland in 1978 to carve a Gelede mask that was danced in an annual festival. Sometimes speakers have no discernable accent. This is analogous to acquiring fluency in a foreign language. not least because the researcher has so little to offer her proposed partners. Olabiyi Yai makes a more radical proposal. where the thrust is the interplay between researcher and researched. and even in fulfilling the role of official photographer. "practical mimesis" afforded me insight into how people economized both fuel and human energy.146 on Mon. is usually easier to propose than to perform.129. singing. and being there with others. consulting a diviner. lighting a kerosene lantern properly. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . can begin to improvise. What performers understand cross-culturally is that what Jackson calls "practical mimesis" is only an initial stage in performing. He argues: Unlike the criticism of writtenness which is in essence a criticism of mediation. the subjects of her study" (1987: 65). dancing. it is self- 34 This content downloaded from 165. it made me see the close kinship between economy of effort and grace of movement. He commented. and performers can begin to "play"with the practice. The more a performer performs. I have at various times participated in cooking. method and object (1989: 3). weaving a mat. it is necessary to adopt a methodological strategy of joining in without ulterior motive and literally putting oneself in the place of the other persons: Inhabiting their world. To break the habit of using a linear communicational model for understanding bodily praxis.REVIEW AFRICAN STUDIES perience. since that was my training. implicating myself in its very production.124. Because most performance in Africa is participatory. oral poetics is indivisible with its poetry. dancing (as one body). it made me realize the common sense which informs even the most elementary tasks in a Kurankovillage. now enjoins. and being completely involved with them in whatever performance. Michael Jackson's participatory approach is central in the radical empiricism he advocates in ethnographic inquiry. Participation thus becomes an end in itself rather than a means of gathering closely observed data which will be subject to interpretation elsewhere after the event (1989: 134-35). Many of my most valued insights into Kuranko social life have followed from comparable cultivation and imitation of practical skills: hoeing on a farm. in short being there. I was most comfortable dancing.

Yai goes on to criticize Dennis Tedlock for relying heavily on librettos. And the more the fieldworker embodies the techniques and practice of fieldwork. in several respects. and above all learning to improvise. 2) empirical studies of performers and audiences. the fieldworker has a responsibility to the collaborators in the research. Indeed. Yai's model. It is based on learned techniques for doing research. Oral poetics is also metamimetic and ameliorative. It is also generative as long as it alms at arousing creative impulses in the audience.124. 35 rather it should be. It is. This. imposes drastic limitations on the generative latitude of the translator-performer. researcher and researched. oral poetry strictly speaking should not even be described. even the possibility of switching places so that fieldworkers can become the objects of performers' researches. the 'text' of an oral poem is fixed and mummified. these multiple perspectives would carry us a long way in understanding performance as discourse in Africa. paralinguistic elements being the only elements of variation. to make each poet excel his predecessors and his contemporaries or to give selftranscending performances at every occasion.146 on Mon. We know it by practising it and by contributing to its making (1989). fieldwork is a mode of the production of knowledge. improvisation is basic and the translator-performer may even add 'lines' of his/her own making to the 'text' which is never closed. Its objective and function are not only to make poets do better and to arouse more poetic vocations. thereby ignoring the essence of oral translation which is re-creation. fieldwork is largely improvisational as means learning This content downloaded from 165. Like performance. the better her or his ability to improvise. It is also expansive when considered from the point of view of mode whose corpus it helps proliferate. To involve oneself in the production of performance the techniques and style.129. I bet that is the case too in more instances than we ever imagined. Realigning the Method with the Subject: Towards a Temporal Methodology Recently. participatory. search scheme. Like a performer. and 3) intertextual studies of the relationship between performance and other cultural texts [and-I would add to this-between Combined into one reperformances themselves]. Strine. but more important. in fact. From this point of view of oral poetics. or well as interactive. would be a good model for fieldwork generally. Mary S. Beverly Whitaker Long. Thus. in our view. once he/she is inspired by the mood or the muse of the genre (1989: 68-69). 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Performance in Africa productive. There is in that case mutual and interactive production between fieldworkers and other performers. and Mary Frances HopKins (1989) have identified three priorities for research in performance: 1) historical studies. In our model.

and HopKins recommend situating performances and performance genres in "the ideas. but politics and intertextuality. power-through reproduction. Who." Strine. perhaps we could speak of inter-discursivity between discourses. Since much performance in Africa is participatory. values. implies at once conceptual constraint and interpretive free-play so that discourse.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW Informed by "new historicism.129. Following Pierre Bourdieu. becomes a more appropriate metaphor for culture. In that case. and. Long. they also advocate studying the ways in which performance acquires value-and. and to what end? The authors suggest that intertextual studies of performance might ask the following questions: "how does one 'text' (cultural.146 on Mon. preservations. All participants then are in dialogue with each other and frequently shift their standpoints in Africa deals within no research performance. circulations. and not text. Shifting from the normative to the particular means focusing on how performance practitioners and other participants operate. and interpretive practices in circulation within a given society during a particular time period" (1989: 191). if intertextuality is conscious and by design. and recordings" (1989: 193). Performance is both multi-discursive and inter-discursive.124. for example. Part of the difficulty is that the idea of some sort of distanced and a reception implies separation unidirectional communicative relationship. This means making a paradigmatic shift from structure to process (from an essentially spatialized. social. their intentionality. To understand the dynamics of performance demands an interdisciplinary perspective that takes into account the temporal nature of performance. from the normative to the particular and historically situated (from the timeless to the timecentered). or personal) reappear in other 'texts?'. in what respects is a performance by definition an 'intertext'?"(1989: 194). 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 36 This content downloaded from 165. Inter-subjectivity. how does the individual performer's memory of other 'texts' function in an intertextual dialogue?. whatever forms they take. The issue of reproduction entails not only history. but rather by people actively engaged in interpretation (1982: xlv). by extension. and from the collective to the agency of named individuals in the continuous flow of group interactions. analyses. The processes of transformation are imbedded in African performance traditions through acts of re-presentation. "transformations. David Parkin argues that perhaps we should speak instead of "inter-subjectivity" insofar as culture is not constituted by fixed sentences. observing what they actually do in specific performances and then listening to what they say about what they do. Virtually specifically with reception. or repetition. controls the processes of reproduction. the distinctions between performers and spectators are blurred. he notes. distanced view to a temporal research practice). with critical difference. Only then can performance as praxis be historicized. what are the formal and rhetorical effects of the new/re-contextualizing of the earlier 'text?'. celebrations.

Performance in Africa Shifting to the particular also means distinguishing particular performances situated in time and place from the performance as an event encapsulating culture or an ideology. Christopher A. techniques. The abundance of written and recorded documents available to the cultural historian. it is not sufficient to observe that performance is emergent. It means focusing on individuals in specific performances as they use structure and process and then locating that performance within a larger body of performances and in history. are more recuperable than forms with longer. as skeptics might imagine (Kapferer. as well as the existence of experts who have had firsthand experience and knowledge of the music under analysis. This however has not been the case with other types of performance such as rituals and festivals. makes the study of popular music more conducive to historical analyses. Thus Deborah Tannen concluded her book on discourse analysis arguing. Adopting a temporal perspective means following repeated performances of the same kind by the same people and between different groups of people. 1986: 192). This has filtered into writing on dance and theater for the stage in Africa. identity. Both are concerned with the relationship between music. Studies of the particular should also include specific instances of the transmission of modes. 1986). which developed under colonialism. Erlmann. Given the contingent nature of unscripted performance.129. society. Admittedly. these popular forms. the performances illuminate structuring properties all the more brilliantly. 1979: xi).124. individual creatures interacting with each other in their natural en- 37 This content downloaded from 165. and politics. except for those emerging as part of new religious movements (see Larlham. This is a fundamental reorientation in the study of performance. Waterman's analysis of the social history and dynamics of Yoruba juju music and Veit Erlmann's studies of black South African performances examine the long-term processes in the development of particular styles of music and dance. "just as the scientific study of whales or elephants or chimpanzees must include painstaking observation and description of particular. and power located in specific social and historical situations. at the same time evoking some essence of that particular performance in order to historicize it (Siegel. a view that has been recently expressed in sociolinguistics. as exemplified by Coplan's work. and styles for generating performance and constructing authority. 1990. Ranger. But rather than losing sight of structure. Several other recent studies are particularly significant for their historicization of African music in the sociopolitical and economic currents of the times (Waterman. 1985. 1991).146 on Mon. precolonial histories. Rather it is crucial to understand how particular performances situated in time and place emerge through the discursive practices of agents and the rhetoric of their actions. indicating at the same time how performers handle them. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Dance and theater critics in the West have always been attentive to particular performances of a theater piece.

or only gradual. With these shifts to the particular and the individual.146 on Mon. as a process of regularization in which the performance is viewed more or less as reproducing the past or the cosmos in stable fashion with relatively little. repetition may recurrence. As I have argued. and constituting. repetition is temporal.25 But in shifting methodologically to the particular and the individual in the study of performance. 1972: 4). subjects into static objects. for representation itself is a form of creativity (Wagner. or acts of re-presentation with critical difference. but desired continuities (Williams. but. once spoken.124. repetition embodies creativity. our failure to reckon with the temporality of performance is in large part due to objectivist epistemology that turns temporally constituted. . which itself may have been a repetition. As a representation of time. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1978: 24748). not have the same value twice.] all at the moment when This content downloaded from 165. Repetition as Transformation. 1982: 187) and involves conscious choice-making. Repetition represents an earlier period of time. Performance is a multi-layered discourse employing multiple voices and perspectives continuously under negotiation. it is possible to study performance as transformational process in contrast to the more standard approach to certain kinds of performance. does not live words. Repetition as Representation A fundamental problem with the study of performance has been our understanding of the nature of repetition.STUDIESREVIEW AFRICAN vironments. so the scientific study of language must include the close analysis of particular instances of discourse as they naturally occur in human and linguistic context" (1989: 196). which has heretofore been seen as structurally restrictive or-at the very least-confining. unfolding in the situated flow of human interactions). not necessary. in the words of Antonin Artaud. what becomes readily apparent is that there are no predictable or verifiable constants in performance endlessly or mindlessly repeated by performers. Repetition is by definition a re-presentation (Derrida. As a representation of an earlier segment of time. Performance is repetition. or Re-presentation with Critical Difference26 Tradition involves. such as ritual. The processes for transformation are imbedded in performance traditions through repetition. That this argument still has to be made even now underscores the constraints traditional disciplines put on subjects. change.129. . 1987) and representation as kinesis (temporal. As such. indeed a representation. Here I distinguish between representation as mimesis (the exteriority or visualization of an inner idea or feeling) (Tyler. That is precisely why change is possible. it is restored behavior. [. are dead and function only 38 create the illusion of "an expression does two lives.

as in regular. Repetition within performance may induce a sense of stability and predictability (Moore and Myerhoff." Repetition within performance would seem to have the illusory effect of impeding the running-offpotency of time. and is experienced in a steady. The other mode is the repetition that occurs within a single performance. In other words. Modes of Repetition in Performance It is useful to distinguish two modes of repetition that operate differently. each repetition is in some measure original. cannot be used again and asks only to be replaced by another. But. phenomenologically a thing repeated is never the same as its or any other "original. The best published discussions to date of the dialectic between repetition and variation. once made. unbroken flow. so also no mode of running-off can occur twice. . or even to substantiate its existence. as Clifford Geertz has put it. once it has served.] a gesture. repetition is the common denominator for differentiation. .] a form. between the collective and the individual 39 This content downloaded from 165. Or. but the audience-even if it were essentially the same-would experience the performance differently. as in annual rituals scheduled to correspond in some way to seasonal change (Schechner. 1979). 1985: 35-116). In this mode. is that scholars often apply the concept of repetition without ever making the distinction-between repeated performances and repetition within performances-explicit. simultaneously. persistent drumming of the sort ethologists and psychologists cite to explain ritual trance (Lex. providing a continuous temporal reference. Indeed one of the confusions. 1977: 17). Yet.Performance in Africa they are uttered.124. This is because time does not repeat itself. to imbue it with a feeling of regularity and permanency. Repetition within performance serves to represent (re-present) time concretely. But to what extent does performance employ this mode of repetition? Repetition may be seen as an attempt to impose a predictable order on what Edmund Husserl refers to as the "runningoff phenomena" of time (1964: 48). to mark it off. so to speak. particularly in the literature on ritual. .129.146 on Mon. although they are conceptually related. The broader mode of repetition in performance is the periodic restoration of an entire performance. rather repetition operates within time to represent it. . "just as every temporal point (and every temporal interval) is."In this sense. and long gaps of time exist between the repetitions. can never be made the same way twice" (1958: 75). Not only would the performance be different. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . to measure it. It has a unifying potential. for it allows its subscribers to re-capture a moment repeatedly. or rather it provides a common denominator for actions and events. and [. just as it is at the same time never totally novel. [. Its binding potential is what makes it particularly crucial to any collective action. "it is the copying that originates" (1986: 380). the unit to be repeated is a complete whole. different from every other 'individual' point and cannot occur twice.

performance is by its very nature intertextual. or mimesis.AFRICAN STUDIESREVIEW within the performance process. Thus a performance is based in actuality on an earlier performance. participants initiate and respond to the rhythmic development spontaneously. "nowhere else is one so close to the stage as the origin of repetition. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . whether in song. But. restored behavior is characteristic of all performance. it is never for the first time. Performers recover through memory (of myth. Jacques Derrida alludes to this feature when he asserts that dramatic representation itself (re-presentation).28 But is duplication any more possible in any performance practice? Or for that matter do African performers attempt duplication? 40 This content downloaded from 165.129. In a flow of shifting relationships. In this methodology. for example." Although Chernoff does not mention repetition explicitly. in dance. The aesthetic requirement of participation in such a context is the ability to stand back from the rhythms of the scene and find an additional rhythm which complements and mediates those other rhythms. any given performance can bear only a likeness to previous performances. even when the actors have developed sophisticated techniques for approximating an original. and only by detaching itself from itself as if from its double" (1978: 24748). In comparison. According to him. studied drumming technique in Ghana for ten years (1979: 125).27 John Miller Chernoff. the researcher masters a technique which enables him/her to participate in the collective action. have involved themselves in performance by mastering techniques that enable them to participate in musical discourse. or in drumming. in contrast to merely "observing" performance or "interviewing about" it. perhaps more so than any other scholars. In this sense. thereby gaining access to its internal dynamics. its actualization. Ethnomusicologists. come from those who involve themselves in the "doing" of performance. is repetition. he was able to understand that which escapes a mere observer. With that experience. so close to the primitive repetition which would have to be erased. of rehearsal. Thus Richard Schechner's experience as a director has made him aware that duplication is an impossibility. it is understood that the participants' dynamic relatedness is based on a constant pulse either sounded percussively or sensed. that is. "we fail to understand the music because we have difficulty participating with adequate sophistication within the rhythmic framework of a specific event. of the last performance) organized sequences that they then re-behave. As a representation of time. repetition may create the illusion of recurrence. at best. the periodic repetition of an entire performance is what Schechner calls "restored behavior" (1985: 35-116).146 on Mon. Variety can be understood only against constancy and vice versa. even when the performers have acquired sophisticated techniques to achieve duplication.124. but for the second to the nth time. Thus.

explorer Hugh Clapperton witnessed a parody of a European male "miserably thin. He takes his example from jazz. saying "how do you do. this time in a New Orleans "stomp" variation (Martin Williams.the latter in a style reminiscent of the tango. parody "allows ironic signalling of difference at the very heart of similarity" paradoxically indicating both cultural continuity and change. 35). Whenever meaning is constant or repeated. involving both creator and partaker in a participatory hermeneutics (1988: 26. and then played ABACCD. dipped snuff. authority and transgression. or repetition that signals difference. Scholars have documented other renderings of whites. it complexly extends and tropes figures present in the original" (1988: 63-64). human beings are represented as stereotypes." and mocked ballroom dancing (1964: 197-98). In the Awori town of Ilogbo on 7 March 1982. cited in Gates. which he borrowed from the end of A. 63-65).146 on Mon. Hutcheon defines parody not in terms of satire. and then repeated D. Gates argues. a miracle representing a British colonial officer chucked his wife under the chin. There seem to be infinite possibilities for rendering them parodically to alter how they are read and perceived. 1985. then he pulled her toward him and kissed her on the lips. Gates. Similarly. transformation is a fundamental principle (Hutcheon.124.129. One is Linda Hutcheon's theory of parody. The scene was a satire of the European propensity to display their affections publicly. In her words. and rubbed his hands together (1829: 55). 1988. "Morton's composition does not 'surpass' or 'destroy' Joplin's. 41 This content downloaded from 165. They shook hands. It is as if the spirit world comes to tell the phenomenal world about itself. Virtually anything in one's experience of the white man is potentially usable for commentary. In another variation. a mask depicting a white man shook Kacke Gotrick's hand and kept looking conspicuously at his wrist watch (1984: 94-95). (1988: xxiv. and starved with cold. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . citing Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 recording "Maple Leaf Rag (A Transformation)" that signifies on Scott Joplin's 1916 signature piece "Maple Leaf Rag. Signifyin(g) can include any number of modes of rhetorical play. For example. As Gates points out."Whereas Joplin's musical form was AABBACCDD.Performance in Africa Repetition with Critical Difference In two recent theories of repetition. Imitating Joplin. A spectator told her that sometimes he also carried a tea cup or a transistor radio. pianist Morton played the trumpet/clarinet part with his right hand and the trombone rhythm with the left. 20). 1988). is an Afro-American tradition known as signifyin(g). but rather as repetition with critical distance (1985: 6." He walked around in an awkward. tender-footed gait.Morton swung the introduction. the play of the signifier is foregrounded. The European miracles that Ulli Beier observed had enormous hooked noses and black hair made of the pelt of the Colobus monkey. according Henry Louis Gates Jr. she put her head on his shoulder. repetition with revision. In the 1820s in New Oyo. in Yoruba masked performances in honor of ancestors. 1988: 63).

both are special dress. neither is for ordinary. and the instrumentation changed completely. He told me it used to be his uniform when he worked in a Lagos gambling casino. one with the typical palm frond strands and cloth face covering came out wearing a Western style men's hat and a tuxedo complete with satin lapels and stripes down the outer sides of the legs. and so on. everyday use. things). The range of possibilities is different depending on what is being revised. oral narrative. that is. content. and he decided to wear it on that day just for fun. embellished. There was no more explanation than that. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . with elements of the Jigbo mask incorporated into And to what extent was the performer conscious of his manipulations? I cannot say. but understood. One of Gates' most important points is that the revision of the signifier disrupts the signified/signifier equation and opens up meaning. it appears that the form was recast. sequence. it would have to maintain some recognizable relationship to it. turn them into a verb "signify. From the description of Morton's transformation of Joplin's musical composition.STUDIES REVIEW AFRICAN What is especially interesting is that Afro-Americans take the places. Associated with the dry season and body sores that seem to occur frequently at that time. People laughed and called the mask Jigbo Oyinbo. qualitative aspects such as dynamics and timing. Thus some arbitrary feature. style. What is unspoken. extended. the performer opened the meaning to new interpretations. "White Man's Bush Spirit.146 on Mon. and in those senses only are they similar. or omitted altogether. Disrupting the signifier. "To signify" is to revise that which is received. whether music. the style was altered radically in the A and D sections. An example from the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria will serve to illustrate the point. Revision can take place within one or more wide-ranging features-form. Jigbo masks represent bush spirits. or whatever. would have to be retained and reproduced. dance. Artists in our 42 This content downloaded from 165. The Jigbo mask and the tuxedo originate from a world beyond the immediate experience of the townspeople. What going to the casino his work uniform? of the implications would happen if the performer switched contexts. evoking the environs they supposedly emanate from. maskers. Masks of this variety ordinarily wear skirts and tunics made of cloth from local markets and strands of fresh palm fronds draped around their necks. or cluster of features. At a 1986 performance on the second day when the Jigbo masks performed. thereby redefining one's relation to it. crossreferenced. in this case the Jigbo form. while all others could diverge-to be displaced and replaced by other features." Later that evening driving back to IjebuOde with the performer.129. I asked why he wore the tuxedo. for example. and concepts of signifiers and signifieds (objects-persons.124. In order for any one of the above to comment on the past. altering the way the past is read. is that the melody retained its thematic identity." simultaneously turning the static equation between two related "things" into a double-voiced process. medium.

Improvisation can be parodic. Meanwhile drummers negotiate rhythmically with each other. Improvisation requires a mastery of the logic of action and in-body codes (or behavior to be re-behaved. By improvisation I mean more specifically moment-to-moment maneuvering based on acquired in-body techniques to achieve a particular effect and/or style of performance. tells us something about the openness of Yoruba performance. the power of performers. each time. unscripted performance-including most ritual. stereotypic. Dancers can also move beyond the limits of the drummers' skill to underscore their superior knowledge. dancers. or they can simplify the music to suggest that the dancer cannot measure up. Just as each improvisation has a recognizable identity formally and stylistically. Most performers-maskers. often participatory and competitive.Performance in Africa own society cannot always verbalize exactly why they choose to do what they do. Each performance. for example. in Schechner's words) together with the skill to intervene in them and transform them (de Certeau.146 on Mon. music. each finding his own path in relation to his co-players. is generated anew. a past experience. But the mere fact that the performer exercised this option to bring the materials from two diverse domains together.124. The work of interpretation is often immediate and spontaneous because of the multilogics of performance and the interrela- 43 This content downloaded from 165. and others in attendance enjoyed it. the past performance. or even subvert other performers and thus commandeer an entire performance. Repetition as Improvisation Broadly defined. it also has an element of newness. diviners. Dancers and drummers. improvisation is repetition with revision (Gates. It is often their critics who make those determinations. This is a far cry from typical views of ritual as invariant. 1988: 63-64). 1984). Drummers can increase the rhythmic complexity of the music pressing dancers to the limits of their skill. that is. This kind of mastery distinguishes a brilliant performer from a merely competent one. The interrelatedness of drummers and dancers establishes a situation whereby individual performers can either support. each move is contingent on a previous move and in some measure influences the one that follows. negotiate rhythmically with each other. in which case it constitutes a multi-dimensional process of argumentation. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .129. it can signal ironic difference from the conventional or the past. This is particularly critical because of the close conceptual and formal link between music and dance in Africa. in-body formulae. singers. impede. and dance in Africa-is improvisational. Periodically repeated. Improvisation is transformational. reinforce. and redundant. and the willingness of participants to entertain alternate possibilities. In improvisation. and drummers alike-have been trained from childhood in particular techniques enabling them to play spontaneously with learned. maintaining a competitive interrelatedness.

1988: 24-25). quirky. producing structures. Since what performers do reflects their assessments of the moment. Rather it assumes the instrumentality of performers in invoking or even breaking rules.146 on Mon. process. and mobilizing resources and support. My orientation does not presuppose that the power of performance to transform experience lies somehow outside human agency either in its structure. and malleable. Optionality is easiest to identify when it involves the use of mass-produced objects incorporated into contexts for which they were never intended. such optionality destabilizes performance-making it open. In practice. 137 n. indexical adapta- 44 This content downloaded from 165. the masks above refer to the past. singing. knowledgeable performers make choices and take action based on their assessments of the moment in order to influence their circumstances. imported latex Halloween false faces. participants intervene spontaneously in the performance at their whims. Performance is not a rigid structure that participants adhere to mindlessly out of some deep-seated desire for collective repetition in support of a dominant social order.129. As representations of ancestral spirits.124. World War II gas masks and sneakers. Their choices are not always temporary. actors are often engaged in bounded. Nor does it assume that human agency is itself normative. and a lot of the discussion about performance centers on discrepancies between those models and what in fact "happened" in a kind of ongoing process of evaluation. "trajectories obeying their own logic" in de Certeau's words. fluid. or carry pocketbooks in their hands and assemblages of plastic toys on top of their heads. dancing. These trajectories have a dialectical relationship to each individual's conceptual model of a particular performance. If that were'true then perhaps culture itself should be defined as hegemonic. Improvisors risk transgressing the boundaries of appropriateness. rule-oriented action as well as in the exercise of power to accomplish something (compare Karp. so that negotiating appropriateness is itself another dimension of improvisation. These boundaries are not hard and fixed however.REVIEW AFRICAN STUDIES tionships between performers and between the various performative genres-drumming. In the temporal flow of situated human interactions. Particularly in performance. or symbols. signaling new meaning (Hutcheon. The progression of the action as well as the meanings it generates are unfixed. it would be naive and reductionistic to think of their performances as a preformulated enactment or re-enactment of some authoritative past-or even as a reproduction of society's norms and conventions. but the newly incorporated items mark divergence from the conventional rather than their similarity to it. as for example when ritual maskers wear Western tuxedos. Improvising. 1986: 136. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . They do so in synthesizing practices. context. 1). Each masker in this sense is a "formal analogue to the dialogue of past and present" in which the past as referent is modified.

Kwabena Nketia's explication. Keenan's discovery that the ground rules for oratory are neither commonly shared nor rigidly adhered to in the plateau area of Madagascar illustrates the contingency of on-the-ground maneuvering in negotiations (1973). J. This does not mean that everybody always exercises their options. which Fabian himself introduced. performance that elucidate improvisation as praxis. that engages people. where the primary action is traveling. forthcoming). Elinor O. or improvisation. a tradition of rhetorical play in cultural and performance practices. It is indeed the playing. he elucidated music scriptions sensibility. however. H. improvisation is apparent in the work of many scholars. which is why performance in Africa sometimes takes on what appears to the outsider as surrealistic aspects. it places performance squarely within the domain of play. drawing them into the action. Virtually everything in one's environment and experience is potentially usable to this end. Johannes Fabian's book Power and Performance tracks the improvisational development of a theater piece by the Mufwankolo troupe in Shaba. Rather optionality in performance practice is itself transformational. I examined the Yoruba concept of play. I concur with Gates' suggestion (1988) that both signifyin(g) and improvisation among Afro-Americans are formal manifestations of African traditions and. what it means to be a member of a drum ensemble.129. constructing their relationships. and Paul Berliner's forthcoming book on American jazz. not only transforming the form of performance. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Harold Scheub explored the technique of the expansible image in Xhosa Ntsomi-performance. from the initial idea. I currently know of only six studies of African. In the field of ethnomusicology are Meki Nzewi's work on melo-rhythmic improvisation (1983). but altering the very canons on which particular performances presumably rest.Performance in Africa tions to the environment or adjustments to changes in society. which is generated through interlocking and transitional images (1970). and 45 This content downloaded from 165. In John Miller Chernoff's vivid deof his music training in Ghana. By implication. as an ongoing process in ritual and how performers deploy it to transform ritual itself (Drewal.124. and so on. through rehearsal and performance (1990). or AfricanAmerican. but due to the limitations of space I am forced to be selective. the meaning of improvisation as praxis. order/disorder. more specifically. Berliner will present his findings using the vernacular language of the musicians themselves. integration/opposition. in which he will give a close reading of the training and way of life of musicians. Veit Erlmann's study of improvisation in Ful'be praise-songs in northern Cameroon (1985). Whenever improvisation is a strategy. 1989b. and the process by which musicians learn to improvise.146 on Mon. In my own work on performance. thereby generating multiple and simultaneous discourses always surging between harmony/ disharmony. Zaire. currently underway. the improvising. of "play" in the music traditions of southern Ghana.

129. [. In the course of time the bearers of the tradition might relinquish some elements in favor of new elements.29 In a discussion of change in Xhosa oral poetry tradition. with different elements altering at different points in time. Opland then goes on to give some examples. 1991)." Thus. 1987b: 287). Kratz's work in East Africa on parallelism and dialogic encouragement in singing has implications for understanding repetition as both a formal and improvisational component of performance (1990). is an aggregate of elements held together by a centripetal force operating on the individual bearer of tradition. Conclusion Combined together in one research scheme. The creativity of abuse is the topic of a paper by David Parkin in which he pointed out that novelty achieves its initial effect when it is juxtaposed with fixed forms "against which speakers test their wit and create new ones" (1980: 63).146 on Mon. Mary Jo Arnoldi's study of innovation and rivalry in Bamana youth theater in Mali illustrated how performers cue each other during performance in order to adjust their performances to the audience's reception (1988). as Sandra Richards has shown. . making those sys46 This content downloaded from 165. Such a scheme would shed light on theories and methods reflecting more truly African epistemological loci.124. thus aspects of the tradition might change. And finally. a force that conduces to conformity with other bearers of the tradition. and the tradition would yet retain an identifiable character. Thus. Jeff Opland identified a processual model of production in flux over time. The point is that it is crucial to understand transformative practices and processes in order to understand change in the long term. the perspectives enumerated above would further our understanding of performance in Africa. "rather than offering prescriptions. and the assembled community arrives at a possible critical interpretation only through the free-flowing interchange of ideas outside the fictive realm of art" (Richards. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . . Corinne A.] so that it could have nothing in common with its existence at the first point of observation and yet by virtue of continuities and changes still be the same tradition (1983: 236). he structures the 'conclusions' of many of his plays like traditional dilemma-tales in which viable options may not be immediately apparent. approximate "to the tenuous. uncompleted. The plays of Nigerian playwright Femi Osofisan. Karin Barber's work on the performance of Yoruba praise epithets showed how poetry is generated on the spot from learned formulae as the singer directs attention to various audience members (1984. tradition in [a] differentiated and dynamic view. 1989.REVIEW AFRICAN STUDIES how each musician during performance finds his way in relation to his co-players (1979). incoherent quality of life itself.

for awarding me a Faculty Development Grant during the Summer of 1989 to work on this paper. and support. Peter L. Morris Meyer.129. in their phenomenological account of the construction of reality (1966). Y. V. 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . particularly among women (Boddy. The works of Maxwell Owusu (1978). Thus. Johannes Fabian. who helped stimulate my initial ideas for this review paper. Africanists such as Janice Boddy and Ivan Karp are beginning to examine possession trance performance as cultural resistance. Dwight Conquergood. 1987: 164). queries. Murphy. Such accounts implicitly assume that existence and facticity (that is. and Sarah von Fremd. for their suggestions and queries and for their patience. I am grateful to Tom Lodge and the members of the Joint Committee on African Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council. ultimately to revise academia itself to accommodate alternative modes of discourse that transcend the constraints of our disciplinary tradition and objectivist metaphysics. and Diawara (in press). Forrest Inslee. James Clifford (1988). I am also grateful to Dean David Zarefsky. I wish to thank the graduate students in my spring 1989 seminar on the State of Research on Performance in Africa. Mudimbe (1988). Carol Martin. and Henry Drewal for their comments. Even in possession trance. Notes 1. I have been indebted to many people for their comments. 47 This content downloaded from 165. Lastly. But.124. Johannes Fabian (1983). and Mbala Nkanga. 1990). Michelle Kisliuk. This conception of objective reality. I take full responsibility for the content of this paper. but to be transformed by them. 3. reality) are independent of what the objects of study necessarily know. School of Speech. In adBarbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. 1989. This is unfortunate especially because they acknowledge that reality is always temporally and processually under construction. Paul Berliner. have made the project of legitimating Western research and writing practices highly problematic. Edward Said (1978). is very different from the application of objectivism in social science research. as well as several other anonymous readers. 5. Minh-ha (1989). Marty Bokow. Val Laini. Karp. I wish to thank Richard Schechner. in which ahistorical accounts of cultural performance from a distanced perspective are routinely normatized. Ivan Karp. I am particularly indebted to William P. Gaurav Desai. or can perceive (Lakoff. to enrich the academic discourse on them. James Clifford and George Marcus (1986). performers I have witnessed in West Africa and the without selfdiaspora exhibit control of their actions and hyper-self-awareness consciousness. Trinh T. however. dition. Morris Meyer. Sandra Richards. see Downing (1987). Northwestern. Veit Erlmann. Avanthi Meduri. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. Johannes Birringer. They included in alphabetical order: Susan Berg. Gaurav Desai. This review paper has benefited from the careful readings given by my colleagues and graduate students. even as it is temporally precarious and unstable. Since then. among others. at any given moment in time. and encouragement at various stages. I began work on this paper in the fall of 1988. believe.146 on Mon. Additionally. Laura Helper. 4. Pfaff (1988). My gratitude goes to Sarah von Fremd for assisting me in surveying sources during the 1988-89 academic year. Performance Studies. suggestions. 2. Northwestern University. At Northwestern. Sarah von Fremd. stress product rather than production.Performance in Africa tems of thought in Mudimbe's words "explicit within the framework of their own rationality" and discourse (1988: x). perhaps not only enabling us to become co-participants in them. reality is experienced by human agents as objective.

Peacock (1975: 219). And for more up-to-date assessments of the status of performance-centered approaches in sociolinguistics and folklore. for example. see Bauman (1989) and Bauman and Briggs (1990). Beidelman's study of the meaning of Kaguru tales has much to tell us about a matrilineal system. 1985: iii-vi. ritual as a category of thought configured as rigid. 9. Thus. 1963). uniform. research on Africa. S. these disciplines have developed and refined their analytical approaches since the 1970s. conventional. Jackson (1989). 14. stereotypic. pattern. the contents were written from the 1930s through the 1960s. Kapferer (1983: 3). For a comprehensive bibliography of the influences on the ethnography of speaking. students are writing dissertations on how so-called spontaneous refugees negotiate everyday life. and convention in societies. See. 221). J. and by extension. and Bourdieu (1990). 1982. In each case. Of course. Goody (1977: 30). Victor Turner's study of Ndembu ritual symbols (1967) is only by implication about performance. 175-76. see appendix I in Gumperz and Hymes (1972). See also KirshenblattGCimblett(1976) for a bibliographic survey of literature on speech play and related subjects. predictable. which he sees as grievous because it has "led to misconceptions about the verbal arts" (1985: 45). 1981. Scheub makes a very similar argument with regard to the compartmentalization of oral tradition and the written word. or what Anthony Giddens refers to as "a continuous flow of conduct" (1979: 2). W. the constructions of histories in national boundary disputes. 15.124. Gell (1975: 217-18). rendered on the printed page. forthcoming). for example. 208). Bloch (1974). but does not tell us about performance (1961. 183. For a review of symbolic and structural studies in relation to the notion of the person in Africa. As I have stated earlier. 12. however. but does not focus on performance per se. see Lakoff and Johnson (1980). 7. Johnson. I believe. Likewise. And all the various representations of verbal arts in Africa that are transcribed and translated. He suggests that the more attention be given to the relationship between the oral and the written. Lakoff (1987). Rappaport (1979: 172. for example. sexual practices. Gleason. Other scholars who have recently treated objectivism include Rosaldo (1989). and for an assessment of recent trends in the study of ritual that attempt to reconcile ritual structure with history. contests over the representation of homeless people.146 on Mon. is useful for a taxonomy of performance. Although Fortes' work has a 1970 publication date. Dan Ben-Amos' discussions of folklore genres (1976). 13. and repetitive provides an ideal model in terms of which to study culture as custom. has to do with the project of anthropology as a discipline in search of regularity. the politics of labeling in the performance of identity. 1986). In the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. micro-political studies of the practices and actions of individual human agents and groups interacting in specific historical moments. Jackson. see Kelly and Kaplan (1990). Moore (1975: 219. T. My primary concern must remain. 10. 48 This content downloaded from 165. As Kelly and Kaplan have noted recently. O. and analyzed in terms of their formal features tell us very little about performance (see. see Reisman (1986: 71-138). Poynor and Yai. on the performance approach in sociolinguistics and folklore. and Tambiah (1985: 131-66).AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW 6. Johnson (1987). 2 Dec 2013 17:10:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . For a critique of objectivist metaphysics. the answer. The transmission of Yoruba religious practice has been a continuous process over time and space from late 18th-century Yorubaland to Cuba as a result of the slave trade and then from Cuba to the United States since the late 1950s largely as a result of Black Nationalism and the massive immigration of Cubans (Edwards and Mason. these are fine-tuned. and the pelvic exam and other medical practices. 8. invariant.129. 11. for example. structurally static.

Performance in Africa
the definitions of ritual that have been offered have tended to share a presupposition about their object. In part because many rituals are indigenously represented as 'ancient' and unchanging, rituals-unlike riots, for example-carry an albatross of connections to 'tradition,' the sacred, to structures that have generally been imagined in stasis. While riots are obviously events in history [. . .], scholars have had a great deal of difficulty conceiving of rituals as anything more concrete than types of events. Until recently the unique ritual event has been an anomaly, understood only when the function or transformation is discovered that identifies its place in structure. It is the possibility that rituals are historical events that now intrigues many anthropologists [emphasis mine] (1990: 120). 16. See, for example, Moore and Myerhoff (1977), Manning (1983), MacAloon (1984), Schechner (1985), Conquergood (1989), Schechner and Appel (1990). 17. Apart from the body of literature by ethnomusicologists, biographies and autobiographies are beginning to appear on African recording artists, for example, Carlos Moore's biography of Fela Ransom-Kuti entitled Fela Fela: This Bitch of a Life (1982) and Miriam Makeba's Makeba: My Story (1987). 18. In Bauman and Briggs' usage, performance is conceptualized exclusively in terms of speech acts and on "the enactment of the poetic function." Their definition of performance remains logocentric. Thus, 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. 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 [emphasis mine] (1990: 73). This conceptualization of performance retains an objectivist bias by implicitly treating stretches of discourse as artifacts to be decontextualized and recontextualized. In the cases that I know in Africa, however, acts of speaking are always interactional, never removed from an interactional setting. Even repeated speech, or reported speech, is intended to be interactional at the moment of its repetition and often serves a rhetorical purpose either to authorize the speaker or to historicize that speech for particular effects. 19. See, for example, Horn (1980, 1986), Gitau (1982), Mwansa (1982a, 1982b), Kidd (1983, 1984), Muronda (1983), Kavanagh (1985), Crehan (1986a, 1986b, 1987), Fiebach (1986), Barber (1987), July (1987), Richards (1987a, 1987b), and Desai (1990b, 1991). Freire's pedagogy rejected the authoritarian practice whereby the teacher is the sole carrier of knowledge and the student, the repository-what he called in its place instituted "problem-posing" education gen"banking" education-and erated through teacher/student interaction. 21. Desai considers the Laedza Batanani theatre project of Northern Botswana as well as later developments in Zambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Kenya, in particular the Chikwakwa Travelling Theater of the University of Zambia, the Samaru theatre project and the Benue State Workshopboth established by the drama division at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria-and finally the Kamiriithu project in Central Kenya, under the guidance of Ngugi we Thiong'o and Ngugi wa Mirii. Recently, Karin Barber has provided a very useful review of sources on "African popular theatre" (1987). Her traditional, popular, elite triad, however, cannot accommodate slippages and movements of arts, ideas, and people back and forth across all economic levels of society through history. Additionally, John Gray in his comprehensive bibliography Black Theatre and Performance (1990) provides over four thousand sources and a listing of more than one thousand extant scripts by African playwrights including John Pepper Clark, 20.


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Bernard Binlin Dadle, Alexandre Kum'a N'Dumbe, Penina Muhando, Mbongeni Ngema, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Wale Ogunyemi, Femi Osofisan, Guillaume OyonoMbia, Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka, Efua Theodora Sutherland, and many more. Among the most prolific of Africa's playwrights, the scholarship on them tends to be of a literary nature, rather than performance-centered. Labanotation was designed for Western dance styles that are more concerned with rendering clear, precise shapes in space. It does not translate well for documenting African dance styles that are more concerned with subtle transfers in weight through time. It also presumes unimprovised, repeatable dances. Labanotation is best for notating uniform shapes in space and fixed choreography, but runs into problems with subtle body weight shifts and improvisational dances. 23. Paul Berliner (1978, forthcoming), John Miller Chernoff (1979), David Coplan (1985, 1991), Roderic Knight (1982, 1984), and David Locke (1982, 1987) are exemplary. 24. For example, Bennetta Jules-Rosette (1975, 1988), Paul Stoller (Stoller and Olkes, 1987), Michael Jackson (1989), and Johannes Fabian (1990). 25. See, for example, S. Moore (1975: 41), Peacock (1975: 219), Ortner (1984: 154), Tambiah (1985), and more recently Lincoln (1989). Sally Falk Moore, for example, has written that rituals represent "fixed social reality" and "stability and continuity acted out and re-enacted" (1975: 219). She continued, "by dint of repetition they deny the passage of time, the nature of change, and the implicit extent of potential indeterminacy in social relations" (221). 26. An expansion and elaboration of this section is found in Drewal (1992). 27. See note 23 above. comment that, my very existence as a 'theatre person' who 'makes plays'-experiences that can't be kept, that disappear with each performance, not with each production but with each repetition of the actions I so carefully plan with my colleagues; each repetition that is never an exact duplication no matter how closely scored, how frozen by disciplined rehearsals-this very existence in/as theatre is postmodern. For the theatre is a paradigm of 'restored behavior'-behavior twice behaved, behavior ever-for-the-first-time-ritualized gestures (1982: 110-11). 29. See also Ranger (1975), H. Drewal (1988), and Nevadomsky and Rosen (1988) discussed above. 28. Consider Schechner's 22.

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