EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W020)

Uncertainty and reflexivity: the legacy of Victor Turner

Location V406
Date and Start Time 11 Jul, 2012 at 14:30

Convenors

Donatella Schmidt (Università di Padova) email
Giovanna Palutan (Università degli Studi di Padova) email
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Short Abstract

Is a rereading of Turner's social drama, particularly of the redressive and reflective phase, capable of unveiling the sense of what is occurring in our towns experiencing profound transformations? We invite panelists to explore this question drawing upon their specific field studies

Long Abstract

The contemporary European and Mediterranean scenario is experiencing profound transformations which fall under the rubric of globalization spin-off: juvenile upsurges demanding a renewal of the status quo, (the "indignados" in Spain, violent rioting in London neighborhoods, the "Arab spring" in North-African countries); the role of social network in spreading protest movements; African refugees perilously crossing the Sicilian channel; migratory flows and new multicultural contexts that are forcing the redefinition of national narratives; the inclusion of new histories as the iron curtain was lifted across the Continent; the difficulties experienced by supranational institutions vis-à-vis regional loyalties. Often overlooked, however, is that this large scale dynamism has concrete repercussions on local realities often struggling not to become strange to themselves; such repercussions are particularly visible in the public sphere where conflicts are displayed and where new images of selfhood are constructed. In this process, no change of perspective is accepted passively by the actors engrossed in it. We query whether Turner's 'social drama' is an applicable model for exploring a range of questions: are the dynamics that are upsetting local space recognizable as crises? Can public narrative and performative moments help in overcoming them? Which mechanisms are set up to handle crises and to imagine an alternative future?" Finally, is a rereading of Turner's processual model, particularly of the redressive and reflective phase, capable of unveiling the sense of what is occurring in our towns, in the dozens of public events of the actors involved? We invite panelists to explore these questions, drawing from their specific field studies.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Turner flooded: social drama, communitas and emergency response

Author: Franz Krause (University of Cologne)  email
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Short Abstract

Based on ESRC funded research among flood victims in Gloucestershire, UK, this

presentation discusses exploring people's responses to emergency as

'social drama' according to Victor Turner, particularly scrutinising the

applicability of 'communitas' for affected people.

Long Abstract

This presentation discusses the benefits and challenges of analysing disaster response in terms of Turner’s ‘social drama’. It draws on material from a current ESRC funded research project on flood memories and community resilience in Gloucestershire, UK.

A number of previous studies have noted that disasters frequently catalyse community action and spirit. Implicitly or explicitly, some of these point to the parallels between disaster experience and ritual performance as described by Turner. The common threat of the disaster is seen to create ‘liminal’ conditions for a group of people that fuse them together into a state of ‘communitas’. The performance of this ‘communitas’, in turn, has been argued to foster social change and build resilience.

Analysing narratives of the 2007 floods in Gloucestershire four years after the event, discourses and practices are discernible which indeed position the floods as a catalyst for neighborhood help and resident associations. Nevertheless, ‘social drama’ is necessarily open-ended, and we must treat the social implications of floods as emergent and multifaceted, rather than as pre-determined paths. In the Gloucestershire case, important questions include: to what extent do recurring floods retain their emergency, and hence liminal, characteristics? How, if at all, are social processes rehearsed during a flood carried over into ordinary life, and how are they stabilised there? And in what particular ways does the ‘social drama’ perspective illuminate processes of community resilience and wider social transformations?

Rebels, indignants and OWS

Author: Stefano De Matteis (Università degli studi di Salerno)  email
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Short Abstract

Victor Turner devoted his whole life to the study of social dramas and communitas.

More in particular, in The Ritual Process he analysed moments and forms of social conflict and its possible resolutions: from St. Francis to the flower children.

Our intention is to see if Turner’s theories can stand also the current systemic crisis that is heavily affecting the old continent as well as the U.S. A structural and economic crisis that could transform not only customs and traditions, habits and consumptions, but also behaviours.

We’ll start by analysing how many and what kind of narrations are “telling” the crisis and the way they are describing it.

Our purpose is to test if, during this change, voices of dissent are being listened to, or, at least, the voices of those who are feeling the impact of crisis and will be the “victims” of a possible restoration or of a future re birth.

Long Abstract

Victor Turner devoted his whole life to the study of social dramas and communitas.

More in particular, in The Ritual Process he analysed moments and forms of social conflict and its possible resolutions: from St. Francis to the flower children.

Our intention is to see if Turner's theories can stand also the current systemic crisis that is heavily affecting the old continent as well as the U.S. A structural and economic crisis that could transform not only customs and traditions, habits and consumptions, but also behaviours.

We'll start by analysing how many and what kind of narrations are "telling" the crisis and the way they are describing it.

Our purpose is to test if, during this change, voices of dissent are being listened to, or, at least, the voices of those who are feeling the impact of crisis and will be the "victims" of a possible restoration or of a future re birth.

Tourism: a contemporary rite de passage

Author: Janusz Baranski (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Short Abstract

Tourism is perhaps the most conspicuous example of contemporary ritual practices. Tourism, in contrast to the classical ritual, is characterized not in terms of liminal, but liminoid (Turner) – a kind of rituality which is fuzzy, decentralized and voluntary.

Long Abstract

Tourism is perhaps the most conspicuous example of contemporary ritual practices. The reasons for this are both historical, social, and existential. First, there is a genetic relationship of tourism and pilgrimage, the tangible expression of what is religious tourism. Secondly, in tourism is included a mechanism of integration/differentiation, maintaining social processes, both locally (region, nation), and globally. Thirdly, it is an important factor in an individual exclusion from the periodic daily routine. Tourism, in contrast to the classical ritual, is characterized not in terms of liminal, but liminoid (Turner) - a kind of rituality which is fuzzy, decentralized and voluntary. Both ritual and tourism have the quality of communitas, the relationship of basic, undifferentiated social relations and have a flaw character (Csikszentmihalyi), enabling nonreflexive sequence of events. Finally, in both cases we deal with the dynamic alternation of structure and antistructure. The first represents a stable social relations, values, norms, whereas the second represents the ritual (tourism) - an element of periodic instability, however, necessary for the stability of structure.

Victor Turner and contemporary urban scenarios: tools and methods

Authors: Donatella Schmidt (Università di Padova)  email
Giovanna Palutan (Università degli Studi di Padova)  email
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Short Abstract

Turner’s approach, processual and indeterminacy inclined, may well interpret a social reality constantly fluid and conflict permeated.We looked at a northeastern Italian town as an example of a social history in becoming, which could be unveiled by specific methodological tools borrowed by Victor Turner

Long Abstract

Assuming Turner's social drama as a possible applicable model for exploring a range of questions which may cast new light on profound transformations investing our contemporary urban scenarios, we looked at a northeastern Italian town as an exploratory example of a social history in becoming, which could be unveiled by specific "methodological tools". Such tools, all borrowed by Victor Turner, included the concepts of crisis and process, political field and arenas, narratives and performance, redress and reflexivity and last, but not least the audience. All these tools, revisited and reinterpreted, concurred to uncover the sense of what was happening in our town. The arrival of newcomers wishful of recognition in the public space was undoubtedly a phase of a diffused long term crisis for the host society, interspersed by more identifiable time-specific crisis; migrant-fostered turmoil was looked through the lens of narrative events, charged with both reflexivity and creativity, which constituted our privileged ethnographic material. Turner's approach, processual and indeterminacy inclined, may well interpret a social reality constantly fluid and conflict permeated

Victor Turner as political anthropologist: urban rebellion, political revolution and public liminality.

Author: Bjorn Thomassen (The Amercian University of Rome)  email
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Short Abstract

By complementing Turner’s processual framework with Mauss’ analysis of the Bolshevik revolution, Bateson’s notions of play and schismogenesis, and Tarde’s and Girard’s analysis of mimetic behavior in the public, this paper develops a frame for understanding contemporary urban rebellions in the Mediterranean, illustrated by ongoing events in Egypt.

Long Abstract

From January 2011 the Tahrir Square in Cairo, 'Liberation' square since the 1952 Revolution, became centre stage for what Turner called public liminality. The events that unfolded confirmed the relevance of Turner's approach to the study of in-between moments and spaces, defined by the collapse or absence of structure, but also by the performance/formation of personal and collective subjectivity. Van Gennep distinguished between rites that mark the passage of an individual from one status to another from those which mark transitions in the passage of time and which involve the whole social group. Turner called the first type for 'life-crisis rituals' and noted that liminality in such rituals is played out in hidden places secluded from the centres of quotidian action. This contrasts with 'public liminality', e.g. collective responses to manmade or natural disasters. Such rituals will play out in the central parts of quotidian space as the village greens or the squares of the city are ritually transformed. Turner analyzed such public subjunctivity/liminal process with reference to the structural relationship between cognitive, affective, and conative components of Dilthey's 'lived experience'. By complementing Turner's framework with Mauss' analysis of the Bolshevik revolution, Bateson's notions of play and schismogenesis, and Tarde's/Girard's analysis of mimetic behavior in the public, the paper develops a frame for understanding contemporary urban rebellions in the Mediterranean. With a focus on Egypt, it will address what happens as the redressing machinery (dominated by cognitive/legal attempts to reinstall order) fails to function, leading to a reversion to crisis.

We are all (pre)Occupied

Author: James Oliver (Monash University)  email
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Short Abstract

A contemporary and historical ethnographic perspective on uncertainty and reflexivity, connecting analysis of mass movements of participation with performativity and Turner's concept of 'social drama'. His discussion of Erlebnis/Experience, is a key analytical tool for reflexivity and performance.

Long Abstract

The civic hearts of our towns (and nations) have historically centred on institutions and their related practices, artisanal and political; and the dynamic of contemporary civil society and creativity is still relational with its institutional practices, performances and preoccupations. Uncertainty and inequality within the dynamic of social relations are central to the local experience, acts and articulations of change, such as in the 19th C. with the Luddite and Chartist movements, land agitation and peasant propriety, and a shift towards a labour movement.

Drawing on the themes of uncertainty and reflexivity, extended to themes of institutional precarity, this paper reflects on contemporary crises of social relations, within historical perspective, such as the Occupy movement. 'We are all Occupied', and in different ways, pre-occupied. In particular, the focus will consider Victor Turner's concept of 'social drama' in terms of institutionalized practices and the social role of the University, such as through research practice, and also as a performative space for reflexivity. Furthermore, Turner's legacy is extended to his discussion of Erlebnis/Experience as a key analytical tool.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.