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Contemporary Ethnography and Traditional Performance, University of Chester UK, 13 and 14 July 2012‏

Contemporary ethnography and traditional performance.
University of Chester, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th July 2012.
Between 1978 and 1986 two series' of conferences looking at Traditional Drama and Traditional Dance were held at the University of Sheffield and at Crewe and Alsager College of HE. Many of those papers celebrated an allegiance with the new 'performance orientation in folkloristics' which sought to engage with issues of context and performance as well as matters of text and provenance. In focusing on mumming, morris and related performances these conferences brought together enthusiasts from drama, dance, folklore, history, geography, anthropology, linguistics and computing sciences.

In the UK the impact of the performance orientation was most strongly felt in the Schools of English at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, particularly in the Institute for Dialect and Folk Life Studies and the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language respectively. In the USA the movement is widely acknowledged as a major precursor of performance studies. Indeed, the prefix 'broad spectrum' often used by and for Performance Studies at NYU and elsewhere, indicates something of the area of antecedent, separating it from a UK Performance Studies, which tends to focus on the contemporary inheritance of a performative avant garde.

Performance studies in America, thus, were developing by carefully examining the models of performance behaviours and processes useful not only to artists and theatre scholars but to anthropologists, folklorists, play theorists etc…Schechner's seminal study Between theatre and anthropology underlines the ways in which performances could be seen as key paradigms for social processes – and popularised the now famous analogy between performance behaviour and ritual. The performance studies in continental Europe (although we do acknowledge country-to-country differences) broadly followed American perspectives on performance albeit from different traditions. Deeply rooted in the nineteenth-century interest in the 'national' and 'folk', exemplified by a romanticized notion of the 'peasant society', European ethnology/anthropology easily embraced the idea of cultural/social performance in which a culture plays out aspects of its world through symbolic performative displays such as folk dance and drama and related ritual behaviour. Although performance studies in continental Europe maintained the separation between studies of theatre/art performance and national/ritual/folk style performances the balance between these scholarships is, perhaps, better achieved than in the UK.

This conference aims to address the achievements, separations, and balances that play out in different traditions of performance research. What does certain scholarly tradition need to lose, forget and neglect in order to institutionally establish itself as a discipline? However, rather than 'going backwards' counting 'missed opportunities' and 'lost chances', we suggest 'looking forward' by embracing an open dialogue between different traditions and different genres of performance.

This call for papers takes those earlier conferences as a starting point and asks you to consider where 30 years of (broad spectrum) performance studies has got us in looking at the amateur, traditional, popular, particular, local, folkloric, fakeloric, competitive, unfashionable and nearly forgotten to scholarship. We look forward to receiving your methodologically and theoretically intriguing engagements with traditional performance, whatever that might mean. We still welcome papers on mumming and morris, but also look forward to a wider ranging ethnography.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words by 30th of November 2011 to
Earlier expressions of interest and/or queries are welcome. We will confirm acceptance by 16th of December 2011.