Manual Black Jaguar, Green Jade (Maya MacLeod Mysteries)

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In ritual, the audience participates actively in the performance, sometimes merging with the performers. In theater, however, the audience maintains an observational stance Beeman —; Schechner Kristen Hastrup 37—41 describes this ability of the actor to maintain a double identity on stage as an essential component of drama. The tripartite universe of audience, actor, and stage posited by the Aristotelian dramaturgical model also highlights symbolic communication as the most important function of performance. The theatrical environment is taken to be a communicative medium, with the actors producing the sign, the on-stage action as the sign vehicle, and the audience as the recipient and interpreter of the message.

In effect, this strips performance of its distinctive strategic qualities, especially the social effects set in motion through its production see also Schieffelin —; States 7.

The theories that underlie the representational model of theater are complex and deeply rooted see Barish ; Summers Germinating in the dialogues of Plato, the anxieties concerning the truth of representation found fertile ground in medieval and Renaissance controversies concerning the role of religious drama in the liturgy. Despite medieval efforts to legitimate didactic theater as the means whereby the unlettered could apprehend the higher truths of God, the similarity of sacred images to divinity itself remained problematic. This was only exacerbated by the development of Empiricism, in which objective observation of nature replaced subjective intuition as a path toward truth.


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Importantly, Francis Bacon employed theater as the ultimate metaphor of falsehood in order to distinguish the interpretation of nature from the subjective constructs of the mind, inculcated by religion and philosophy. Now seen from the perspective of science, ideology takes on the qualities of an umbrella category, subsuming religion within it. This attitude forms the foundation for the interpretation of performance as propaganda, in which the actor tries to convince an audience of some truth by presenting it visually, while the audience remains unaware of, or acquiesces to, the falsehood of the claim.

Talal Asad calls this the Wizard of Oz theory of ideology, and criticizes it for its presumption that the anthropologist like Dorothy is somehow able to see through the falsehoods of culture, while natives remain caught up in the drama, receiving hearts, brains, and courage in the process. Another dramaturgically based theory that has been influential for notions of state power in the Maya context is the acutely paranoid and suffocating vision of social interaction promulgated in the writings of Michel Foucault , This model posits that the body is socially constructed through the influence of pervasive power structures.

Echoing Goffman, Foucault indicates that these structures are deployed through visual fields, which motivate selfregulation and discipline by individuals. For example, some scholars argue that the disciplinary mechanisms essential to the power of the state were articulated through public performances in ceremonial centers where rulers and subjects were brought into a common perceptual field Inomata b: —; see also Houston — It assumes an intrinsic power in a state that must maintain itself, without considering more diffuse power relationships, or questioning the degree to which different social groups were affected by authority.

It is likely that our focus on royal performances has given us an unbalanced view of Maya culture, which is partly perpetuated through dramaturgical models. His authoritarian view of power invokes a characteristically western subjectivity, which demands an authentic system of meaning to define its identity see Asad ; Spivak Further, the interpretation of performances as sites for the exercise of power reduces these events to sign vehicles. The problem with this model is its equation of power with expression and communicative voice.

This ignores local definitions of power, which may not inhere in the rhetoric of communication, but may be linked to more dispersed notions of agency. There are, in fact, many domains of agency in performance and dance, embodied in both the movements of the performers and the actions of those who attend or assist in the performance Browning xxii. Power can also be acquired or deflected by dancers through training and discipline Dempster It is true that dance may sometimes function as an aestheticized form of persuasion.

Bibliography

For example, war dances and related performances representing ethnic conflict can have a profound effect on a community under pressure of invasion or exploitation Bricker However, performance is more than an ideological vehicle. Like other forms of ritual, dance enacts social change through its very instantiation. I have focused on the philosophical speculations on theatricality not simply to suggest its inadequacy for interpreting ritual performance cross-culturally, but also to provide a reference for alternative models of understanding dance.

The dramaturgical model is sound in its recognition that cultural performances are not trivial, but rather engaged politically.

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However, it fails in its focus on the public image as a medium of political communication. Performance theory presents a more useful way of conceptualizing action and meaning in ancient Maya dance. To this end, in the s and s, many linguistic anthropologists explored the meaning of manual and facial gestures, postures, gaze, and other kinesthetic features as components, rather than mere adornments, of linguistic utterances Farnell ; Kendon These studies emphasized discourse, or language in performance, as the medium which generates, transmits, and facilitates the acquisition of cultural knowledge.

This critique of the representational role of linguistic discourse merged with the debate over the social functionality of ritual to inspire detailed investigations of the performative aspects of rituals Bloch , ; Schechner , ; Tambiah ; Turner , A performance works not merely through the communication of symbolic meaning, but by the way in which it makes these symbols part of lived experience Schieffelin As a result of these investigations into the social context of language and ritual, scholars now often view performance from one of two perspectives.

The second views performance in broader terms, as a dynamically embodied signifying act Farnell and Graham Richard Schechner Fig.

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This inclusive definition of performance, which I employ in this book, allows for a consideration of dance unhindered by preconceived notions of context or genre. This study adopts three major tenets of performance theory to interpret ancient Maya dance. Second, the participants in performance are considered as the agents who effect this social transformation. Finally, I consider how physical realities, accessed through the senses, affect the performance and its outcome Bell These concepts provide the basis for understanding the active role that dance performance played in ancient Maya society.

Aesthetics and Embodiment As mentioned earlier, aesthetics is acknowledged as an essential characteristic of dance; however, there is no agreement regarding the aesthetics of non-western visual arts and performance. In this view, the meaning of the work is embodied in a formal analysis, which examines the elements of design with critical scrutiny. Accordingly, these analyses tend to provide lists of aesthetic criteria according to some person or social group Fernandez ; Thompson ; see also Kaeppler This methodology identifies specific formal features or tropes, such as couplets, which are manifested among various media, including visual arts, dance, music, and poetry e.

For example, Kaeppler b analyzes Tongan dance into several distinct aesthetic components of rhythm, drone, and decoration, which seem to emerge repeatedly through multiple performances as well as in other domains of culture, such as bark cloth painting. This analysis generates a cognitive map of the culture as a whole. A useful schema for thinking about the phenomenon of recurring aesthetic features is poetics, which concerns the way in which expressive culture identifies form.

Originally intended as a method for studying texts, aesthetic tropes have been readily applied outside of the realm of languages, within the all-consuming scope of semiotics. In addition to providing ample terminology for naming and analyzing the complex formal elements that compose performances, structural aesthetics is concerned with the analysis of meaning in these tropes. Thus, Robert Plant Armstrong pointed to aesthetic tropes manifested in African art as communicating core cultural patterns see also Reese-Taylor and Koontz ; Tate Structural aesthetics, therefore, is opposed to formalist aesthetics, positing form as a way of accessing meaning, though this meaning is iconic and self-referential see Feld In this regard, it is of interest that structuralist aesthetics usually arrives at the same conclusion as the functionalist model of ritual, suggesting that the overall function of aesthetics is to promote a sense of shared identity and community.

There are theoretical problems with both perspectives on aesthetics. In addition, formalist aesthetics posits a normative emotional content for the gaze, usually described in terms of pleasure e. From cross-cultural studies, however, it is clear that the emotional responses structured by aesthetic systems range far beyond pleasure, 10 00a-LOOPER.

The particular emotional responses to form, and the cultural interpretations of these reactions, cannot be assumed, but rather must be investigated.

It presumes both a closed and homogenous field of culture and interpretation, as well as the omniscience of the researcher, who functions as the code-breaker. The degree to which images encode information is debatable and may in fact be secondary to other aesthetic functions. Although visual forms may function as writing, such a degree of encoding must not be assumed for all visual systems.

Another theoretical weakness of the structural approach to aesthetics is its inadequate formulation of systems of power in relation to art. In particular, it has been suggested that aesthetic systems are pervaded by power by virtue of the traditional values that they represent.

The aesthetic tropes are used as a form of rhetoric to achieve certain goals. However, it is not true that ritual language, or ritual itself, is necessarily more heavily patterned or structured than nonritual behavior, and degrees of formalization cannot be equated with power Asad This calls into question the supposed political necessity of aesthetics. It might be argued instead that aesthetics provides the ground for the deployment of agency through discourse. Power, then, is not an ethereal entity that ritual performs or instantiates, but a latent potential of aesthetics, its results depending upon how it is discursively applied.

The aesthetic system is not inherently authoritative, but is a resource for the discourse of authority among social agents. In the context of sociopolitical competition, the aesthetic system may assume importance as a way of controlling discourse by pre-empting other utterances. This leads us to an alternative view, advocated by anthropologists working primarily in Oceania, which considers aesthetics as tantamount to a mechanism for social transformation.

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This can only be done through the appropriate aesthetic. Because these patterns enlist the intersubjective practices that are integral to social life, their mobilization in performance actualizes symbolic reality in social terms rather than merely as a cognitive argument or proposition. As an illustration of this transactional model of aesthetics, Hirsch cites the gab, a ritual performed by the Fuyuge people of highland Papua New Guinea.

This elaborate collective performance involves the construction of a large village, the staging of dances, and the exchange of gifts. However, once these constructions are completed, they are left to decompose. Thus, like discourse-centered approaches to language, which point to the interdependence of grammar and discourse Sherzer , this constitutes a balanced aesthetic theory that is defined in relation to both form and context.

The analysis of aesthetics from the point of view of elicitation considers visual form in re- lation to the actions or social effects it enables, as well as the meanings it might convey. This approach also enables aesthetically powerful objects to be socially efficacious without being held up to evaluative scrutiny Morphy Discourse can foster a mystique around images that may be perceived peripherally, or even simply known to exist without being directly apprehended.

The power of these images emerges from mental comparisons with objects of a similar class. For instance, this function of aesthetic memory is involved in the painting of images on tomb walls, which may have been seen by few people prior to being sealed. Nevertheless, by virtue of its creation in the context of an elite-sponsored painting workshop and sanctioned by familiar ritual forms, the image is rendered authoritative. It is therefore through integration in a system of production that certain works of art achieve aesthetic effects, and only secondarily through visual contemplation.

This separation of aesthetics from the act of looking or seeing prompts a reconsideration of the importance of aesthetics in relation to ideology. Rather than functioning simply as a semiotic vehicle for the communication of cultural values, the image may serve primarily as a material focus for a social process that represents ideology in action. This action enables the merging, though only temporarily and incompletely, of the relevant participants in the event producer, viewer, subject into a social community.

Because it involves the interpretation of sensation in relation to social action, particularly in the context of group activity, aesthetics implicitly involves the body. The discussion of the body in archaeology generally draws upon two distinct theoretical frameworks Joyce ; Lock ; Meskell Although Foucault explicitly describes antiquity as a culture of spectacle and modern society as a culture of discipline, his notion of bodily discipline has been influential in speculations about ancient Maya society, as we have already seen.

The other important perspective on the body in archaeology is provided by Pierre Bourdieu , who explored the social implications of the repetition of mundane activity.

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According to this model, being is located not in the ethereal semiotics of the mind, but is explicitly material, embodied in the act of perception. This explains the phenomenological emphasis on intuitive apprehension, vivid description, and interpretation of direct experience States It has been argued, however, that the phenomenological notion of the body, as conceived by MerleauPonty, perpetuates its Cartesian split from the mind by considering the body as a locus for tacit knowledge and abstracting embodiment from social relations and processes Farnell Indeed, it could be argued that the treatment of the body as a discursive, textual, iconographic, metaphorical, or even a knowing entity is an artifact of a specifically western obsession with the body as the objective aspect of the individuated self.

More consistent with a performance-centered approach to culture is the concept of embodiment: the set of meanings, values, tendencies, and orientations toward the body that derive from performance. Subjects both create and are generated through the bodily interpretations that emerge in performance.