Attention in Performance
Acting Lessons in Sensory Anthropology
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This book elucidates how learning from actors enables an intense education of attention for anthropologists. Actors perform the perception of sunshine, the sensation of pain, affects such as shock and emotions such as happiness; they act quarrels, erotic attraction, leadership and submission on stage. In order to achieve that, they undergo an education of attention that allows them to develop skills that are also useful for anthropologists, particularly when doing research on phenomena that often elude academic procedures.
Drawing on her own acting experiences and ongoing research with actors from Africa and Europe, Cassis Kilian takes up Tim Ingold’s manifold proposals to reconfigure anthropological research. She introduces approaches actors use to explore the complexity of human life and its bodily, sensual and emotional dimensions, which can be difficult for academics to grasp when examining topics such as everyday practices, traumatic experiences and power relations.
Though the book discerns pitfalls in anthropological research and suggests artistic approaches to overcome them, it values anthropology as a discipline whose radical self-reflexive approach allows for such experiments. Including exercises and practical approaches, this is valuable reading for scholars interested in anthropological methods, sensory anthropology, perception and materiality, and theatre anthropology.
Table of Contents
Prologue; 1. Researching Films We Live By: Tribute to Dieudonné Niangouna; 2. Researching Sensory Memories: Tribute to Walter Lott; 3. Researching Being Present: Tribute to a Siberian Tiger; 4. Researching Urban Rhythms: Tribute to Emil Abossolo Mbo; 5. Researching Global Entanglements: Tribute to Nkem Owoh; 6. Researching Human Sounds and Their Resonance: Tribute to Christiane Zerda; 7. Researching on Discipline and Despotism: Tribute to Peter G. Dirmeier; 8. Researching Collaborative Approaches: Tribute to Caroline Gatt; Epilogue
Cassis Kilian worked for more than twenty years as an actor before she wrote a PhD on African film. She teaches at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Mainz University, Germany. Her publications focus on media, racism, cosmopolitanism, senses, perception, methodology and epistemology
'Metaphors from the theatre have often been used in anthropology – social dramas, frontstage vs backstage – but few have explored the literal connections between acting and anthropology. Cassis Kilian draws on her double competence to remind us of the fact that ethnographers use their bodies as tools of inquiry in order to study other bodies moving, eating, speaking, working, watching, sleeping and, yes, acting. Through a string of memorable cases, the book shows ways of using the senses to achieve performative knowledge in order to be able to study it later. Kilian's beautifully written and extraordinarily original book speaks convincingly to the minds of ethnographers, but also to their senses.'
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo, Norway
'Through a set of engrossing accounts of her engagement with actors' sensory training, Kilian provides anthropology with a major, and unique training asset as its methodological foundation in "participant observation" has been transformed in recent years into a refined sensory capacity to be attentive.'
George E. Marcus, University of California, USA