Re: ethnographies

Cliff Sloane (cesloane@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU)
Sun, 6 Nov 1994 19:34:23 -0600

On Sun, 6 Nov 1994, Tom Riley wrote:

> Now, if you are going to do an ethnography of a play, don't you have to be
> an actor who is in the play at the same time that you are trying to make
> some sense of the play, bith understanding it -in the sense of verstehen-
> and analyzing it? How can a spectator who is not participating do an
> ethnography- by definition?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this exactly what Milton Singer did in
Madras? Of course, it wasn't a "play" in the literary sense, but he made
a case for "cultural performance" that would serve as a reasonable model
for me. I have read and written about other forms of such production
(i.e., an ethnography of concert promotion, the performance interactions
in concert settings, etc.) to be convinced that an ethnography of
"plays" would never stop at the written text. That's what the Comparative
Lit folks do. There is a sociological path to having a play published;
another path to having a play produced; and myriad social relationships
leading to Opening Night. This alone seems ethnographically rich, not to
mention any "performative" or otherwise analyses.

I would recommend holding off on skepticism, at least for now.

Cliff S