performative turn

However revolutionary the ‘performative turn’ may have been, the ‘text’ never vanished from the field. Instead, the relationship between texts produced in oral performances and the co-texts with all of their diverse contexts came into focus (e.g. Silverstein & Urban 1996; Foley 2002). Analysis shifted concentration to the meanings conferred on performances and the traditions realized by the performers themselves and the listeners or participants of those emergent performances. The focus shifted from the historically ‘original’ text to the event and the emergent nature of folklore. This shift in focus was partly due to technological developments that made it easy and practical to record the audio and visual aspects of performances without isolating and objectifying the text that was realized in performance. However, the reactive aspect of the performative turn was not without consequences. On the one hand, it also produced an exaggerated concentration on certain performances over others, and on the other hand, it exaggerated the emphasis on the importance of first-hand fieldwork materials as opposed to archival sources. Although this turn opened many significant new insights, perspectives and understandings, it was simultaneously characterized by narrowing focus in the opposite direction of historical comparative studies, and such narrowing was not necessarily entirely fruitful.

Contributed by Jesse. View changelog.