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Editors’ Introduction

Published onOct 01, 2017
Editors’ Introduction


The Performance of the Real Research Theme held its inaugural event –the Ritual and Cultural Performance Hui and Symposium –from the 14th-15th of April 2016. Day one took place at Araiteuru Marae, and day two at St Margaret’s College, Otago University. Because this was the opening event for the Theme, the organisers agreed that it would be culturally appropriate in the New Zealand context to begin on a marae1. Araiteuru is an urban marae, whose name and roots refer specifically to the ancestral waka (canoe) of the Kai Tahu iwi (tribe).

The hui and symposium used the following quote from Richard Schechner as a provocation:

Every day people perform dozens of rituals. These range from religious rituals to the rituals of everyday life, from the rituals of life roles to the rituals of each profession, from the rituals of politics and the judicial system to the rituals of business or home life. Even animals perform rituals (Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction 3rd ed. 52).

This event investigated the performativity of ritual and cultural enactments, with presentations addressing the question: what is it that makes ritual and cultural performances so compelling and pervasive in the contemporary world? In order to draw together as many strands of scholarship and practice as possible, we deliberately kept the provocation very broad. The question, and Schechner's contentious proposition that rituals are ubiquitous and that even animals engage in ritual behaviours, provided a potent embarkation point for the 20 presentations that were given during the symposium.

Professor Paul Tapsell provided a compelling keynote address on the first day of the event, which traced the journeys of tāngata whenua from the ancestral marae Taputapuateain Ra’iatea (French Polynesia). Although his address is not included here, its spirit, mana and scholarship, and its simultaneous tracing of origins and development of future-facing theory,is present in the papers that appear in this publication.

Other themes explored at the event included:

  • rites of passage

  • ritual in sport

  • carnivals/festivals

  • ritual and indigenous worldviews

  • dance, music and or theatre and ritual

  • culture and hybridity

  • secular and sacred rituals

  • ritual in healing

  • liminal performances

  • gender performativity

  • ‘traditions’

  • food and its rituals

  • performance in everyday life

Speakers featured a mix of academics and postgraduate students from a variety of places and disciplinary backgrounds, highlighting the interdisciplinary and international nature of the Performance of the Real Theme’s research network. The papers themselves were a mix of conventional papers and practice-led ones (i.e. presentations where performance was the sole or primary means of communicating ideas). Contributions focused on theoretical issues connected with ritual and cultural performance, as well as some detailed case study analyses –particularly focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. This edited volume provides a snapshot of the hui and symposium’s richness and diversity.

The papers in this edited collection were subjected to a rigorous double blind peer review process, and only those deemed satisfactory have been selected for publication. Peer reviewers were chosen according to their research expertise and proven publication records in the authors’ fields.

The editors have several people to acknowledge and thank for their assistance in producing this publication. Our sincere gratitude goes to the authors and reviewers for their enthusiasm, expertise and cooperation. In particular, we wish to acknowledge Professor Paul Tapsell, who delivered the keynote talk on day one, and Associate Professor Ian Maxwell (whose contribution is published in this volume) for his presentation on day two. Maxwell’s presentation became a cornerstone address for that day, and provided a deftly-argued and provocative wero (challenge) for the remainder of the symposium. Special thanks to editorial assistant Massimiliana Urbano, the theme’s current research assistant, and to the theme’s Steering Group for their support. Thanks also to Araiteuru Marae and St Margaret’s college, to Rua McCallum –the event's kaitiaki (guardian), our student helpers Dominic Houlihan and Shannon van Rooijen,and particularly Ryan Tippet (the theme’s former research assistant) who worked so hard to ensure the hui and symposium ran smoothly. Finally, on behalf of the Performance of the Real Research Theme, we wish to express our ongoing appreciation to the University of Otago. It isa privilege to be part of such a vibrant research network, and we look forward to further lively discussion and debate at future theme-organised events.

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