Volume 9, No. 2, Art. 58 – May 2008

Performative Social Science: A Consideration of Skills, Purpose and Context

Brian Roberts

Abstract: This article reviews recent work applying a notion of "performance" in the study and representation of lives. It tries to clarify some of the issues involved—including the meaning of "performance"—and "performative"—the range of possible approaches (e.g., in addition to drama—other arts) and the relationship between "subjects", "researcher" and "audience". An immediate concern is the nature of the researcher—as having the necessary skills and abilities or knowledge involved in "performance" (in researching, writing, recording and representing), as engaged (to some extent) in "artistic" endeavour, and moving between a number of "roles" and social relations in "performing" with/to others (the "researched" group, audience and society). An important issue for social science in crossing or bridging the social science-arts, in taking up "performative approaches", is "What remains distinctive about the social science if it becomes involved with performance approaches?" As a source for comparison (and inspiration), some brief reference will be made to the work of KANDINSKY—who moved across disciplinary boundaries and artistic practices—as ethnographer, painter, teacher, designer, theorist and poet. Finally, perhaps, there is a deeper "turn" indicated by the "turn to performance" in the study of lives, a more "complete" portrait of the individual as an active, communicative and sensual being.

Key words: performance, performative turn, performance studies

Table of Contents

1. Introduction—The "Turn" to Performance

2. From Text to Performance

3. Art-Performance-Research

4. "Theatre for Change"

5. Ethnographic Film and Photography, and Documentary Film and TV

6. Performance, the Web and Digital Resources, Biomedical/Biotech Developments

7. Problems with the idea of "Performance"

8. Role of the Researcher: Sociological and Performative Practice

9. "The Performative Turn"?

10. Epilogue: Questions for Performative Social Science





1. Introduction—The "Turn" to Performance

This article aims to give some general overview the "manifestations" of Performative Social Science (PSS) and some reflections, especially on how the arts-social science link may impact on the issue on the role of the social science researcher. In the Call for Abstracts for this Special Issue of FQS we provided a "working" starting point for a "performative social science":

"What 'performative' refers and relates to in social science is the communicative powers of research and the natural involvement of an 'audience', whether that be a group of peers or a group of students, a physical audience or a cyber audience, even an individual reader of a journal or a book. We believe that these efforts deserve a foundation for this emerging aesthetic, both to ground performative social science as well as to encourage reflection on it" (Call for Abstracts, available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/fqs-e?CfP_08-2-e.htm). [1]

A distinction can be made between "performance" (as forms of art, ethnography, and social science) and the "performative" (which includes the processes and "tools" from all of the arts and humanities and social sciences) and should be emphasised. This needs to be borne in mind when reading this "review" of developments in, and areas of contact between, social science and arts. Otherwise there is the danger of collapsing any artistic or social science activity into mere "performance" or too readily taking features of one area's activity and transferring it to another without adequate scrutiny regarding skills, purpose, tradition and context. However, while there are these dangers in crossing boundaries, there are also challenges that can bring new ways of working and benefits in terms of understanding—exploration and experimentation are not merely to generate excitement with something "new". [2]

In the endeavour to trace interconnections and differences between the arts and social sciences, there is a further danger of trying to assimilate and map areas into the "familiar", or already understood. This can be done by too readily "categorising" an area into pre-existing "boxes" or by stressing some historical continuity, rather than pointing out an area's uniqueness and the particular context in which it arose. As described in the Call for Abstracts, where music, dance, video, poetry, or drama are being used as part of the "tools" of the qualitative researcher, the "performative" should be conceived as a "provisional" or "shorthand" term: to describe the collection, organisation and dissemination of research which moves beyond traditional modes, such as the text based journal article or overhead presentation. The attempt in this article (and Issue) is to conceive performative social science as both open to new developments (ways of researching and dissemination, including to new audiences) and reflective on its practice in its relations with artistic work. The material outlined in the article must be read in this "inquiring" and "open" manner. [3]


For some years I have had an interest in the life and work of KANDINSKY. Until quite recently this interest has seemed to be separate from my social science concerns. But, I suddenly began to wonder if at least some of my attraction to KANDINSKY was related to my reading of the increasing interrogation of arts and social science relationships, and more specifically to the emergence of performative social science. I began to realise that my interest was not some leisure retreat from more "academic" concerns. I was also developing a broader reading of art history and theory, which seemed to have connections with work that I was reading which explored "territories" beyond the traditional boundaries of social science research and analysis. There seemed to be lines of interrelation—a pattern that I had not fully or previously realised in my own reading and research—in terms social relevances, modes inquiry, and issues of representation shared between, at least some, parts of artistic and social scientific endeavour that had an historical basis and informing current explorations from both "sides". [4]

Moving across boundaries towards the arts, as is increasingly the case in qualitative research, raises some important questions. For example, what would the model of the "new" qualitative researcher be? Perhaps the careers of particular artists themselves, maybe KANDINSKY, I began to ponder, might give some "clues" as someone who crossed artistic and other boundaries (including international). He was an ethnographer, studied law and economics, was an artist, theorist, theatre designer, poet, and administrator. (Other artists, "contemporaries" of KANDINSKY, could also, perhaps, be considered, such as RODCHENKO, LISSITZKY, and MOHOLY-NAGY, who also worked in various artistic fields and related their work to existing social and political upheavals, see, MARGOLIN, 1997; see also BORCHARDT-HUME, 2006; LAVRENTIEV, 2008.) While on the "artistic" rather than the sociological side of the arts-social science divide he might give some idea of what this "new figure" might be. KANDINSKY began his career as a law/economics student, conducted ethnography in Siberia (and published it), managed a print works, began an artistic career quite late, was involved in various artistic groups, and was part of the cultural policy administration after the Russian Revolution. He became a member of the Bauhaus (see BEIGHTON, 2007; DROSTE, 2002; KENNEDY, 2006; WHITFORD, 1967, 1984) and designed for the stage, wrote poetry alongside woodcuts (in the book Sounds), and was a theorist on colour/sound/form and, famously, on the "spiritual in art" (see BECKS-MALORNY, 1994; DUCHTING 2000; FISCHER & RAINBIRD, 2006; HAHL-KOCH, 1993; KENNEDY, 2006; LESACK, 1988; LINDSAY & VERGO, 1994; WEISS, 1995; WHITFORD, 1999a, 1999b). It has been argued that throughout KANDINSKY's work (despite the often commented changes from "folk" art, expressionism, geometric to biomorphic painting) there is a continuity of Russian folk motifs/myth and worldview (WEISS, 1995). To some he is likened to a "shaman"—and his art is said to reflect shamanic influences from his original (brief) period of ethnography (see WEISS, 1995). KANDINSKY also co-edited with Franz MARC the famous The Blue Rider Almanac (that contained articles on art, musical notation, illustrations of non-European objects, classical, medieval and "folk" art, and children's drawings (DROSTE, 2002, pp.103-104; KANDINSKY & MARC, 2006; WHITFORD, 1984). The central "idea" of "The Blaue Reiter" was shared with the later Bauhaus—the notion of a "synthesis of culture encompassing all fields" (LANKHEIT, 2006, p.47). In fact, the Almanac is now receiving renewed attention from artists and critics for its "bringing together" of the arts. [5]

For the qualitative researcher, it can be asked, to what extent in moving from the dependence on the written text (article, book), is s/he to become more of a literary writer/poet/actor-director/painter/or dancer-choreographer in finding ways to research and portray the experience of individuals and groups? One means that becomes attractive, to be found in the legacy of the Avant-Garde (e.g., surrealism) in the early 20th Century, is the use of collage and montage. Through these techniques and by drawing on documentary and anthropological influences, various kinds of text (descriptions, captions, poetry, etc.), photographs, and illustrations were related (BURY, 2007). This work, by the Avant-Garde, can provide an inspiration for current research. For example, the new "virtual" media can "layer" and interconnect information (audio-visual-text) in (more) sophisticated ways; it can provide an interactivity which can challenge the boundaries of research, the "traditional" positions of respondent and audience, and the linearality of the research and dissemination processes. [6]

1.2 Research and performance relations

Three key issues, at least, arise for social science in relation with the move to the "performative". [7]

First, there is the nature of the "performative turn" in social science. What is meant by "performance" and "performative" and how will their adoption shift research practice (ROBERTS, 2007, p.52)—for example, research can be a performance, by performance, of a performance, or in performance. Secondly, there are implications for the researcher—to what extent and in what sense is the social scientist to be a dramatist, actor, director, poet, painter, or choreographer-dancer, etc.? In conducting any form of inquiry the researcher could be considered some kind performer, but in performative social science there is the notion of relaying research through artistic modes or, further, conducting research by exploring artistic practices. Thirdly, these developments bring important issues surrounding the nature of knowledge:

"The currently emerging synthesis of the arts and social sciences presents challenges to the methodological-philosophical foundations of knowledge. At the very heart of this matter is an aesthetic knowledge transfer. The need for innovation in dissemination of detailed descriptive and interpretive information has, until recently, been largely neglected in the social sciences" (JONES, 2006, p.69). [8]

In the discussion of the idea of the "performance" and its application we should caution against simple oppositions, e.g., a "new" versus an "old" paradigm: not only does "existing" social science research and writing have its creative, innovative and "artistic" aspects but a "performative social science" should be careful to remain open to influences and be dynamic in exploring new possibilities. As WORTHEN (2004, pp.19-20) argues:

"New paradigms are often ghosted by their history in ways that are difficult to recognize, acknowledge, and transform; to understand 'performance studies' through a simple opposition between text and performance is to remain captive to the spectral disciplines of the past. Both texts and performances are materially unstable registers of signification, producing 'meaning' intertextually in ways that deconstruct notions of intentions, fidelity, authority, present meaning. At the same time, text and performances retain the gesture of such semiosis, and discussions of both text and performance remain haunted by the desire for authorization... we should be eager not to foreclose understanding, to preempt new critical practice, by reaching too quickly and irritably for the certainty that notions of 'paradigm' and 'discipline' appear to offer". [9]

As WORTHEN adds, that in "this moment of undisciplined, interdisciplinary flux, euphoria, uncertainty, mystery, and doubt, perhaps what's called for is a little negative capability" (WORTHEN, 2004, p.20). Finally, we should bear in mind again, that it is the "performative", as the processes and "tools" from across the arts and humanities and social sciences, in which we are interested, not simply the use or study of "performance" as such. [10]

1.3 The rise of performance studies

Performative social science can generally trace its origin to the rise of "performance studies". The "turn to performance" or, more specifically, the idea of "culture as performance" has arisen alongside a number of other "turns" in social science. It has grown from a previous notion (in the 1940s and 1950s) of "drama" in social relations (e.g. BURKE, 1945 and GOFFMAN, 1971, see ROBERTS, 2006, pp.62-79) and the later use of the term "performance" in the study of culture (festivals and ritual, gender and identity, etc. see BUTLER, 1990), including as BURKE (2005, p.35) argues, "even emotions, architecture and knowledge". In broad terms, it may be argued, that in the social sciences (or even wider), "the rise of performance" has been accompanied by a broader movement from "social or cultural fixity to that of fluidity, from scripts to improvisations, from mentalities to the habitus" (BURKE, 2005, p.35). For example, CONQUERGOOD (1989, p.87), referring to anthropology and ethnographic research, says: "The performative turn in anthropology is more properly thought of as a spiral of performative turnings, conceptual flips that problematize different angles of ethnographic research". [11]

"Performance studies" can be seen as a field where various disparate disciplines meet—a "young" field which seems particularly receptive to influences from other areas (see MADISON & HAMERA, 2006, see also MADISON, 2004; HAMERA, 2005). Its institutional origins and formative disciplinary background is seen as originating in drama or theatre studies. Interestingly, the notion of "performance" was also coming to the fore in art, e.g., in "performance art", in the 1970s, although it had a long history (see GOLDBERG, 2001). In the early 1970s Richard SCHECHNER, who can be considered as the "founder" of performance studies, was exploring the ways "performance" and social science overlap (see SCHECHNER, 2004, 2006). He argued for a shift in teaching theatre studies towards "performance"—as a "broad spectrum" or "continuum" of actions; a call for a wider curriculum to take account of ritual and societal contexts. He "suggested a de-emphasizing of literary, text-based criticism in favor of performance-based analysis" (BIAL, 2004, p.5). SCHECHNER (2006, p.2) argues, by drawing on a very diverse range of disciplines, not only the performing arts but the social sciences and cultural studies generally, analysis is opened out in an exploration of the visual arts, textual materials and art objects, and wider culture, as performances "in ongoing relationships". So, not merely are the performing arts included, but sports, rituals, the media, and popular culture as exhibiting life performances or social roles (gender, class, race, etc.) as "enacted" (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.2). [12]

An important aspect in the development of performance studies is the shift in emphasis from "text" to "performance". CONQUERGOOD argued for performance to be founded not so much on the text but on a notion which connected with academic research as well as artistic training and practice (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.22). CONQUERGOOD described his own department's approach to performance studies as guided by "artistry, analysis, activism" or "creativity, critique, and community" ("citizenship and civic struggles for social justice") and the "triangulation" of "three perspectives"—"accomplishment" (e.g., "the making of art and culture"); "analysis" ("the interpretation of art and culture"); and "application" ("activism, the connection to community") (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.24; see CONQUERGOOD, 2004). In this conception, performance studies examines how and under what circumstances a "text" (a script, painting, etc.) was made and by whom was it made, and how it interacts with those who view it. Thus, while the artefact may be "relatively stable", the performances "it creates or takes part in can change radically" (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.2). In performance studies, for SCHECHNER, the idea that there are interactions between cultures and that there are cultural differences mean that no general theory of performance is possible. Rather, many methodologies are needed to examine the diverse subjects, as shifting and contradictory, in the social world. Interestingly, he adds that performance studies often challenges established assumptions and social hierarchies and is "sympathetic to the avant-garde, the marginal, the offbeat" and to minorities and the "formerly colonized" (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.4). [13]

The focus on "performance" had an appeal to university teachers of theatre, dance and speech communication who were beginning to see their "traditional European and American curriculum" as "disconnected" from "the increasingly multicultural and media-driven world of the professional performing arts" (BIAL, 2004, p.5). [14]

2. From Text to Performance

The growth of "performance studies" in theatre study, and its influence within anthropology, has flowed through into ethnography in qualitative research. It has fed the idea of a "performative social science", initially associated with ethnographic study, and qualitative methodology (c.f. ALEXANDER 2005; ALEXANDER, GIESEN & MAST, 2006; BOCHNER & ELLIS 2003; DENZIN 2001; GERGEN, 2000). This growth of interest in a "performative social science" has been evident with the successful founding, for instance, of Kip JONES's Web discussion list on "performative social science" (PerformSocSci)—and this Special Issue of FQS. In the social sciences, and in anthropology in particular, the idea of "performance" seemed to be as pertinent as the "text" as a form of representation of culture—while the process of writing was opened up for interrogation. So, in part, this "shift" to "performance" or the "performative" has been founded on an earlier change towards new forms of writing—again, drawing on anthropological discussion. The use of poetry, fiction and more reflexive writing, as in auto/ethnography, challenged what had constituted "academic" or "research" writing. The "performative turn" was a further step, asking questions not merely about representation and dissemination but what "performative" elements of the arts (in also carrying out research) could be adopted in social sciences. [15]

2.1 Performance and ethnography

For more than twenty years researchers, from a variety of fields (anthropology, ethnography, psychology) in the social sciences have "performed" their work by innovative means to disparate audiences (e.g., in both conferences and a wider range of other kinds of presentation) using monologue, drama or other arts (e.g., GERGEN, 2000; see JONES, 2004). Often such performances have been based on ethnographic field notes and reflections to frame accounts of the "field" and the researcher's own positioning. This approach to "reportage" has, perhaps belatedly, come into qualitative research discussion and practice within sociology (as a new "stage" in qualitative research), with an emphasis on "performing culture". For DENZIN (2003, pp.x-ix), this is supported by the view that we now live in a "performance-based, dramaturgical culture"; in such a culture the boundary between the performer and audience "blurs"—as the broader culture has become a "dramatic performance":

"Performance texts are situated in complex systems of discourse, where traditional, everyday, and avant-garde meanings of theater, film, video, ethnography, cinema, performance, text, and audience all circulate and inform one another ... the meanings of lived experience are inscribed and made visible in these performances" (DENZIN, 2003, p.x). [16]

DENZIN attempts (by drawing on TURNER, CONQUERGOOD and others) to find new modes of writing and performing culture which will contribute to a performance-based social science and a "critical pedagogy" and an "emancipatory discourse", "confronting democracy and racism in postmodern America" (DENZIN, 2003, p.3). He also attempts to link a "reflexive ethnography" with "autoethnography" where the researcher undertakes work associated with their own life. [17]

The exploration of the "performative" for social science requires a conception of qualitative research that disrupts the "traditional" notion of the research process (not only its end point in "reportage"), as not necessarily according to the traditional, linear conception of collection, interpretation and dissemination. The "stages" can be mixed, distinctions between researcher, "subjects" and audiences disturbed—research becomes a flexible, recursive process with its "end" less definable. Instead of the written text—and culture as a "text" to be written-interpreted (c.f. CLIFFORD & MARCUS, 1986) by the researcher-interpreter, there is a less clear but more open approach. The "performative" can bring to bear many different forms of understanding and representation—from poetry to photography, from academic journal article to dramatic enactment. For a performative social science, "ethnographic performance" (as based on the "field" or "autoethnography") is only one area of development for "performative" interpretive skills and processes—there is also the promise of relating text and the visual, sound and voice in many forms. The "materials" of research to be investigated or constructed, interpreted and reviewed, discussed and represented are opened beyond the transcribed interview text and field note observations—to understand individuals and groups as acting, interacting, touching and feeling, seeing and hearing, making sense of and representing their lives through a variety of "media". [18]

2.2 Ethnotheatre/ethnodrama

SPARKES (2002, p.127) points to "a long tradition of using drama in educational, therapeutic, social contexts, with some projects employing participatory strategies in script development and using the actual voices of members of the community under study". He adds, that while "research has certainly been a part of this work, the emphasis has for the most part been on political, educational, or aesthetic considerations, or a combination thereof" (SPARKES, 2002, p.127). MIENCZAKOWSKI's (1995, 2001) work on ethnodrama has the aim to give empowerment and insights into health care settings, including work with drug and alcohol withdrawal projects. Accounts are used from ethnographic work (observation and interviews) to provide plays in which clients and professionals are represented:

"For Mienczakowski, of central importance in the ethnodrama process is the 'creation of ... "plausible accounts" of the everyday world' ... through consensual agreements by all involved in the writing process (report); the physical interpretation on stage (through dramatic representation); and the use of authentic language, recognized and interpretable by the informants ... also important ... is that the language used in the ethnodrama both informs and pursues 'mimesis' ... defined as 'imitation'. The polyvocality of the ethnodrama transgresses the stereotypical 'authorial voice' and the ethnographer is presented as a conduit through which informants' stories are channelled" (O'NEILL, 2002, p.72). [19]

A feature of MIENCZAKOWSKI's work is that it is intended to be dialogic (c.f. BAHKTIN)—the audience, professionals, informants and participants are invited to respond to the performance as an educative and critical—and emancipatory and empowering—experience (c.f. BOAL—see O'NEILL et al., 2002, pp.71-2; DENZIN, 2003, pp.82-83; MIENCZAKOWSKI, 1995, 2001; SPARKES, 2002, ch. 7; McCALL, 2000). [20]

SALDAÑA (2003) has written in detail on how research materials can be shaped for performance as "ethnodrama" or "ethnotheatre". For SALDAÑA (2003, p.218):

"As working definitions, ethnotheatre employs traditional craft and artistic techniques of formal theatre production to mount a live performance event of research participants' experiences and/or researchers' interpretations of data for an audience. An ethnodrama, the script, consists of analyzed and dramatized significant selections from interview transcripts, field notes, journal entries, or other written artifacts. Characters in an ethnodrama are generally the research participants portrayed by actors, but the actual researchers and participants themselves may be cast members" (see also SALDAÑA, 2005, 2006). [21]

SALDAÑA (2003, p.231) concludes that Western theatre has been interpreting social life on the stage for 2,500 years, so playwrights have always been "ethnodramatists", but there is always a need for good scripts in theatre and qualitative research. He rightly cautions that attention must be given to the "appropriate" means of representation and presentation needed for qualitative research, whether it be a "traditional written report, video documentary, photographic portfolio, Web site, poetry, dance, music, visual art installation, or ethnodrama" (SALDAÑA, 2003, p.219). SALDAÑA (2003, p.220) adds that since theatre's central concern is not so much to "educate" or "enlighten", an ethnographic performance has a "responsibility to create an entertainingly informative experience for an audience, one that is aesthetically sound, intellectually rich, and emotionally evocative". He urges qualitative researchers and theatre practitioners to collaborate in the "presentation of ethnographic performances" to enhance quality in "ethnotheatrical production" (SALDAÑA, 2003, pp.228, 230). As SPARKES (2002, p.147) succinctly observes,

"the creation of a drama in itself in no way ensures that social science research will be more broadly accessed or that researchers will make a difference in the world ... if the ethnodrama is done badly, then none of its potentials will be realized". [22]

Again, here we can say there are implications for social science researchers—in particular, the degree that they should be able to employ skills, aesthetics or knowledge drawn from the arts, or have some of these sufficiently to enable collaboration with artists to meet their own objectives. [23]

3. Art-Performance-Research

Ethnography or other qualitative methods may be blended with, or a space found within, for interaction and interpenetration between artistic and social science practices. In performative social science, the researcher has been conceived, to some extent, as using performative techniques or processes from artistic fields, while in artistic practice there has been a rising concern with research practice. [24]

3.1 Ethnographic surrealism/surrealist ethnography

Ethnographic practice and "texts", including film and photography, have sometimes been directly influenced by the arts, while within artistic practices the notion of the "ethnographic turn in contemporary art" has been described (see FOSTER, 1996, pp.171-204). [25]

CLIFFORD (1988) in his famous essay "On Ethnographic Surrealism" traces the interconnectedness of surrealism and ethnography in the interwar period (see HOLLIER, 2006). He uses the term "surrealism" to describe "an aesthetic that values fragments, curious collections, unexpected juxtapositions—that works to provoke the manifestation of extraordinary realities drawn from the domains of the erotic, the exotic, and the unconscious" (CLIFFORD, (1988, p.118). Ethnography and surrealism, he argues, are two related but changing traditions, while the broader lines between art and science are "ideological and shifting". [26]

CLIFFORD (1988, pp.145-146) says that whereas the tradition of "anthropological humanism" takes what is different and makes it understandable, "ethnographic surrealist" practice—for example, through collage—"attacks the familiar, provoking the irruption of otherness—the unexpected". Here, there are implications for how the ethnographer and artist are formed. Seeing "surrealism as ethnography" challenges the basic conception of "the creative artist, the shaman-genius discovering deeper realities in the psychic realm of dreams, myths, hallucinations, automatic writing". In contrast, the "cultural analyst" is concerned with "making and unmaking of common codes and conventions". CLIFFORD (1988, p.147) concludes that when surrealism is joined with ethnography it "recovers its early vocation as critical cultural politics, a vocation lost in later developments". [27]

Surrealism was not simply a "movement" limited, for instance, to the art forms of painting and sculpture, but was as much associated with poetry, theatre, film and photography (see ALEXANDRIAN, 1970; REMY, 1999). For example, BATE (2004, p.53) points to a number of key elements of surrealism in some photography—"sign systems", "mimesis", "prophotographic", "enigmatic", "semiotic revolution", "marvellous beauty", "uncanny signs", "primal scenes", "the meaning of revenge", "death, politics and sex", and "treatment" (BATE, 2004, pp.21-53). Surrealism's emphasis on the ethnographic/anthropological and documentary can be seen in the "photo-book" in the 1930s—a legacy to be found, for example, in the rise of "street photography" in the 1960s. Of course, there is a rich history of "street life" and documentary photography which runs through the "classic" works of photography by Walker EVANS, W. Eugene SMITH, Robert FRANK, Bill BRANDT to photographers such as MEYEROWITZ (see DELANY, 2004; FRANK, 2007; HAMBOURG, ROSENHEIM, EKLUND & FINEMAN, 2000; MORA & HILL, 1998, 2004; WESTERBECK, 2005; see also BADGER, 2007; BURY, 2007; TATE LIVERPOOL, 2006). [28]

3.2 Ethnographic art—the "ethnographic turn" in art

The relation between art and anthropology, as CLIFFORD (1988) notes, has a long trajectory, and (again) is found especially in the work of surrealism (e.g., BATAILLE and LEIRIS) in the 1920s and 1930s. Anthropologists, in the past, looked towards art for models of practice and of ways "seeing" culture, while currently there is a heightened attention towards art and art practices from social science. Similarly, there has been a recent interest in the other direction—from art to anthropological practice. FOSTER (1996, p.181) argues that there is a "new paradigm" in art—the "artist as ethnographer". [29]

The appeal for artists, FOSTER (1996, pp.182-183) says, of anthropology has been because of its focus on "alerity", "culture", "context", "interdisciplinarity" and "self-critique"—fieldwork appears to "reconcile" issues of theory and practice. The "ethnographic turn" in art was also a result of developments in "minimalist art" in the 1960s through to "conceptual, performance, body, and site-specific art" during the 1970s. Art institutions were also increasingly perceived as not merely "spaces" but part of a "discursive network of different practices and institutions, other subjectivities and communities" (FOSTER, 1996, p.184). FOSTER (1996, p.202) argues that, "restrictive" notions of art and the artist were being opened up to a broader "horizontal" idea resting on culture, due to influences from cultural theory and new social movements. In this horizontal move, artists were being expected to be able to describe and understand—to provide a "narration"—of a culture. [30]

As FOSTER (1996, pp.173-174) points out, there is a serious "danger" for the "artist as ethnographer" of "ideological patronage"—not merely due to differences in identity between artist and Other but also, ironically, by an identification which seeks to narrow the gap. What he particularly emphasises is the complex two-way relation between ethnography and art, one that actually spans a long period—however, in doing so he provides some cautionary notes, regarding the identity and identification of the artist, and also what the ethnographer may be seeking from an "idealised" artistic practice. [31]

3.3 Performance art

"Performance", as an area of artistic expression involving the direct relation between artist and audience, received increasing prominence and acceptance during the late 1970s. "Performance art", in fact, as a long pedigree stretching through Futurism, Constructivism, Dada, Bauhaus, experimental music and live art through to John CAGE, Merce CUNNINGHAM, and Fluxus artists, etc., but as an artistic "current" only came (it could be argued) to the fore in contemporary art (GOLDBERG, 2001, pp.7, 121-6). Previous oversight had not been "deliberate", GOLDBERG argues, but because of a difficulty in integrating it into the history of art:

"At that time [1970s], conceptual art—which insisted on an art of ideas over product, and on an art that could not be bought and sold—was in its heyday and performance was often a demonstration, or an execution, of those ideas. Performance thus became the most tangible art form of the period. Art spaces devoted to performance sprang up in the major international art centres, museums sponsored festivals, art colleges introduced performance courses, and specialist magazines appeared" (GOLDBERG, 2001, p.7). [32]

For GOLDBERG, performance has not only been a means of "bringing to life" the artist's fundamental "formal or conceptual ideas", "live gestures" have also been continually "used as a weapon against the conventions of established art" (GOLDBERG, 2001, p.7). However, she observes, that the notion of "performance art":

"has become a catch-all for live presentations of all kinds—from interactive installations in museums to imaginatively conceived fashion shows, and DJ'd events in clubs—obliging viewers and reviewers alike to unravel the conceptual strategies of each, testing whether they fit into performance studies or more mainstream analysis of popular culture" (GOLDBERG, 2001, p.226). [33]

One form of performance art has been broadly "autobiographical". Various artists, such as Laurie ANDERSON in the mid. 1970s, began to take their own life for a resource within their work and interrogate the boundaries between life experience and art. Through live performance, film, or use of film and sound together, these artists presented their life and art, even the construction of the current performance itself as an artistic event (GOLDBERG, 2001, p.172; see also HEATHFIELD, 2004). A strong, explicit "autobiographical" trend has been evident in some recent British art, for example, in the work of "Britartist" Tracey EMIN (see also Sarah LUCAS), who has used a variety of media, including film, painting, drawing, found objects, prints and installations to represent her life. Such work has sometimes been described as "confessional" or personal "storytelling", or can be seen as "narrative auto-ethnography". [34]

3.4 Movement and dance—communication and the body

"Movement studies" can potentially cover a huge range of areas for research—sport, health and exercise activities, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and physical and health education. More specifically, "movement studies" or "movement analysis" is associated with the ideas of LABAN, and has been developed by BARTENIEFF (and others) through "dance/physical therapy"—this has become itself a broad and diverse field across many arts, health, education, and cultural disciplines which have brought an increasing mix of influences. [35]

There is here the notion that communication is more than mere words, the "language" of movement can also communicate emotions; through dance, posture or gesture, meanings are interpreted and comprehended, consciously and unconsciously by others. Observing and outlining "movement" on both a small and broader scale can trace historically how we act—showing diversity and change. Alongside its close connections with the performing arts, "movement studies" has been of use to those in health fields, social science, education, social policy and in cultural studies. "Movement studies" and analysis emphasises the "experiential"—the attainment of skills and insights brought by the acquisition of the features of movement. Through an understanding of movement, it is claimed, there is a practical aid to communication, while the focus on the shifting body in action and spatial relations can inform and enhance research. FINNEGAN (2002, pp.109-110), an anthropologist, argues:

"Movement is a major strand in our communicating. This is partly related to one of vision's limitations: that things can fade into the background or become too familiar to be noticed. The human eye is alert to movement however, so this is an effective means for attracting visual attention at a particular time or place. Waving, standing up, raising a theatre curtain, hoisting a flag or making a movement towards someone to begin a conversation or take a turn at speaking are all well-tried ways to start off a communicative phase. In addition, few if any human acts of communicating lack a temporal dimension; we are dealing not with once-and-for-all messages but processes over time. Here our movements play a large part. These are drawing increasing interest, often under the general head of 'kinesics'—the study of visible bodily movements in communication". [36]

Within the study of movement, dance has been a particular area of interest—and of course, anthropology has long been concerned with dance and ritual. The study of socio-historical development and contemporary forms of dance has been (belatedly) taken up by social scientists. Recently, Helen THOMAS (1995, 2003) has provided an interdisciplinary approach to the study of dance, including its history, and sociological and artistic approaches. She has examined identity and difference through the representations of the body and bodily practices in dance. [37]

The renewal of interest in dance and "movement" in the social sciences has been spurred by the "turn to the body"—the study of "embodiment". The representation of the body, the reshaping the body, and so on, have become major areas of discussion and research. As FINNEGAN observes, in relation to the body:

"We interpret others in part by their physical appearance, and take account of visible features like hair arrangement, skin, facial (and other) cosmetics and physical marks. A few physical characteristics such as stature, skin colour, sex or bone structure are relatively unchangeable; they are interpreted in some traditions as communicating crucial or highly emotive information nonetheless and people have sometimes tried to exploit the relatively limited scope for modifying them. In most other respects however there are vast possibilities for manipulating the communicative resources of the visible body. The deliberate shaping and ornamentation of the body is a widespread feature of human culture" (FINNEGAN, 2002, p.27). [38]

In short, for a performative social science, here the key area of interest is the idea of the body as "communicative"—not merely through activities such as dance but in general everyday activities. More particularly—in how we act and interrelate with others as an area for research and also in relating that research to audiences. We relate to others by diverse, complex means via the body—by gesture, touch, sound, smell, etc.—which provide the bases of both contemporary interaction and the evocative elements of memory. [39]

3.5 Experimental film and ethnographic film

RUSSELL (1999) explores the connections between "experimental film" and "ethnographic film" (including the influence of surrealism) which have often been seen as separate "practices" with different histories and concerns. Now, she says, these are taking "new cultural roles" in the new "critical context of postmodernism and postcolonialism" (RUSSELL, 1999, p.xi). She argues that ethnography is "a means of renewing the avant-gardism of 'experimental' film'"—since both "avant-garde" and "ethnographic cinemas" share an emergent "subversive form of ethnography in which cultural critique is combined with experiments in textual form" (RUSSELL, 1999, pp.xi- xii):

"If ethnography can be understood as an experimentation with cultural difference and cross cultural experience, a subversive ethnography is a mode of practice that challenges the various structures of racism, sexism, and imperialism that are inscribed implicitly and explicitly in so many forms of cultural representation" (RUSSELL, 1999, p.xii). [40]

A key part of her argument is that the use of video is another important shift in visual culture with implications for an experimental ethnography: as "a mode of representation that understands itself as a practice that is historical, that takes place in a moment, or across several moments in time" (RUSSELL, 1999, p.xviii). Perhaps once again ethnography—and broader visual anthropology and sociology—will draw on the Avant-Garde (Surrealism, etc.) or "experimental", as previously but now, obviously, within the new contexts of video and digital technologies. The older forms of collage and montage, through disruption and juxtaposition, collaboration and critique, will have a renewed impetus as new forms of representing and reporting lives are arising through multiple and layered linkages to film clips, text, photographs and interactive possibilities. [41]

3.6 A/r/tography

Within the construction of performative ethnographic or other texts and performances, the subjects may take part but commonly the emphasis is upon the researcher relating the field and other materials into dramatic or alternative forms for an audience (again often these have kinds of auto/ethnographic or biographic orientation). Various performative forms can be used, even together. For SPRINGGAY, LEWIN and WILSON KIND (2005) there is an "artificiality" in distinguishing between art forms; in their view, "a/r/tography" has the ability to encompass the spread of art forms (film, drama, dance and so on) and types of "expression" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, p.909). In "arts-based" kinds of research such as "a/r/tography", they argue, "the production of the arts as a mode of scholarly inquiry and as a method of representation" is a central idea, it can "empower and change the manner through which it is conducted, created and understood" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, p.897). [42]

SPRINGGAY et al. (2005, p.898) emphasise (referring to educational research) that if arts-based research approaches are to be fully accepted then they have to be taken as "methodologies in their own right"—as having their own criteria rather than as a "patchwork of different disciplines and methodologies". A/r/tography, they state, is fundamentally informed by "a loss, a shift, or a rupture" which "create openings", "displace meaning", and "allow for slippages" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, p.898). It is also "attentive to the sensual, tactile, and unsaid aspects of artist/researcher/teachers' lives" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, p.899). Therefore, a/r/tography does not simply explore the social world using art and text as "merely mutually illustrative" but as "interconnected and woven through each other to create additional meanings" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, p.899). [43]

A/r/tography as a "deep inquiry", for SPRINGGAY et al. (2005), leads a/r/tographers to make meaning in their lives using "embodied understandings and exchanges"—how their bodies and senses, mind and emotions are involved in the interrelations between the forms of production and representation used and between their various roles as artists, teachers, viewers and readers etc. In short, they argue, it gives a research practice that is "fluid, uncertain, and temporal"; it "dislocates complacency, location, perspective, and knowledge" and "becomes a passage to somewhere else" (SPRINGGAY et al., 2005, pp.899-908). [44]

3.7 Biographical research and "relational aesthetics"

An exploration of a "performative social science"—the blurring of boundaries between social science and the arts through employing "performative" techniques and processes raises questions regarding the aesthetics to be employed. JONES (2006) considers the "aesthetic of storytelling" in the search for aesthetics to inform the new "performative" social science. He turns attention to BOURRIAUD's principles of "relational aesthetics" for examination:

"Relational Art is located in human interactions and their social contexts. Central to it are inter-subjectivity, being-together, the encounter and the collective elaboration of meaning, based in models of sociability, meetings, events, collaborations, games, festivals and places of conviviality. Bourriaud believes that Art is made of the same material as social exchanges. If social exchanges are the same as Art, how can we portray them? One place to start is in our (re)presentations of narrative stories, through publications, presentations and performances" (JONES, 2006, p.66). [45]

JONES (2006, p.68) examines "publication" in social science, noting that the prime outlet for social science materials are textual. He attempts to "publish" differently with reference to a "particular use of web publication as an outlet for a "performative", art-based textual production of [his] own biographic interview data". He describes his interview and published biography of writer and feminist Mary GERGEN, and "how the process of creating that document itself became collaborative, 'performative', relational and reflective of an arts-based approach to the diffusion of biographic narrative data" (JONES, 2006, p.68). In the reporting of the interview with Mary GERGEN about her life and work, JONES uses a biographical introduction, the text of the interview (including the told life story and follow up email correspondence), and also adds a version of the interview text in a novel way by using colouring, differing text size, graphics and photographs to illustrate and illuminate GERGEN's words. For JONES, the objective is to involve the "subject" in the report as well as stimulating the audience by showing the process involved in the interview and by textual and graphic reportage (see JONES, 2004). Drawing on "relational aesthetics", and ideas of novelty and creativity, "improvisation" and "spontaneity", there is a "recasting" of the "reflective and dialogical approaches found in biographic social science". He adds, "relational aesthetics judges artworks in terms of the inter-human relations which they show, produce, or give to" (JONES, 2006, pp.67,73). Therefore, in JONES's formulation a "representationalism" (the audience reception or relation) does not neglect an attention to the "energies in producing art" (see GARDNER, 2005, p.130). [46]

3.8 The "traditional" arts and narrative research

The "performative turn" in qualitative social science research is not only associated with theatre and drama, but includes other arts. A "performative social science" will include music, film, painting, dance, and poetry—the multitudinous ways of relating text, images, sound and harnessing and stimulating combinations. [47]

BOCHNER and ELLIS (2003, p.506) explore how the arts may provide the "media" for "personal and collective narratives" (see also FINLEY & MULLEN, 2003). In reviewing a collaboration with artists, the say the artists saw "what was important about art was what it awakened or evoked in the spectator, how it created meanings, how it could heal, and what it could teach, incite, inspire, or provoke" (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 2003, p.507). BOCHNER and ELLIS (2003, p.507) consider art as a "mode of narrative inquiry"—a new research mode that takes a "turn in a conversation", "art as inquiry" becomes a "a transgressive activity":

"We believe that art-based research will be judged not so much by what it promises as by what it delivers—its ideas, insights, values, and meanings... how art can be used to examine ourselves, investigate and express the worlds of others, transgress stifling conventions and boundaries, resist oppressions, grieve and heal, produce intersubjective knowledge, reveal the hidden meanings of memory work, and come to terms with multiple and contradictory identities" (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 2003, p.510). [48]

BOCHNER and ELLIS (2003, p.509) say that arts based education research has parallels in their own work on "ethnographic alternatives". Their aim is to give the "first-person voice", the "autoethnographic" or "performative voice", and challenge the "jargon" which separates researchers, writers, performers from participants, readers, audiences. [49]

3.9 Narratives in artforms, participatory action research (par) and ethno-mimesis

O'NEILL and HARINDRANATH (2006, p.50) investigate the "lived contours of exile, displacement and belonging" of refugees and asylum seekers, by "ethno-mimesis": "the combination of socio-cultural research (life history interviews) and the re-presentation of the life history narratives in artforms (photography, poetry, and creative-writing) to produce alternative ways of re-presenting" (see also O'NEILL et al. 2002; and O'NEILL, this Issue) [50]

They couple "ethno-mimesis" with "PAR" (participatory action research) to offer groups the "opportunity" "to represent themselves, without a cultural or political intermediary talking 'on behalf' of them''. The practice "transgresses the power relations inherent in traditional ethnography and social research as well as the binaries of subject/object inherent in the research process". The use of PAR enables groups to be both "objects" and "subjects" or authors of their own "narratives and cultures". In orientation, "PAR/ethno-mimesis is reflexive and phenomenological" but it also includes "praxis" and a "cultural politics", giving "safe spaces for dialogue" and may contribute to "processes of integration and social justice'': For O'NEILL and HARINDRANATH (2006, p.46):

"Biographical narratives can heal, empower, challenge and transform our relationship to the past and the future. They are also important psycho-socially ... as narratives of self making, fostering ethical communication, producing counter hegemonic discourses and critical texts that may mobilize change". [51]

O'NEILL and HARINDRANATH (2006) say their research is "transformative across three levels of praxis": textually, visually and practically. By presenting such work in local venues in the community, and inviting others to attend and take part in sharing food and music, there are possibilities for cross-communal understanding. Elsewhere, O'NEILL (O'NEILL et al., 2002, p.85) describes her approach (following life history research on women who work as prostitutes and video/live art performance responding to interview transcripts combining dance, text, sound and video) as follows:

"Participatory Action Research (PAR) as ethno-mimesis creates spaces for the voices of the marginalised peoples and in doing so challenges stereotypes and encourages both those participating, and the audiences, to mobilise for change in constructive ways at the level of the individual; the group; the community; or more nationally. Inter-textual knowledge as ethno-mimesis is an example of praxis—purposeful knowledge". [52]

O'NEILL (2001), in earlier work, brought together ethnography and art by collaborating with performance artists and with poets/artists and refugees/asylum seekers. The central intention of the research was to unite "mimesis-sensuous knowledge" (using ADORNO and BENJAMIN) with ethnographic research practices—to enable "stereotypical subjects" to have their own voice (through processes of inclusion and participation, valuing local knowledge, and developing interventions that challenged dominant notions and knowledge about them) which raises the issue of "whose knowledge counts" (O'NEILL, 2001). [53]

4. "Theatre for Change"

"Performative Ethnography" and "ethnodrama" or "ethnotheatre" in social science profess a "dialogical" relation between researchers, participants, audiences and others, which is critical, educational or "change-inducing". However, it can be noted that in the field of drama, "change" as an expressed purpose of theatre has a long history, at least dating to early 20th Century theatre. As an aspect of theatre it is probably as old as drama itself. In the past eighty or more years a variety of forms of "theatre for change"—"developmental", "political", "experimental", etc.—have evolved. Any claims for "newness" or a distinctiveness in terms of eliciting personal and social change by "performance studies", "performance anthropology/ethnography", or "performative social science" more generally, must be set against the broad strand(s) of theatre history and current theatrical practice. The work of "performative social scientists" in relation to drama is paralleled, at least to some extent, by a set of existing theatrical practices with some comparable interests and objectives. There are numerous forms of "theatre for change", for example, from which performative social science can draw: [54]

4.1 Theatre for development, forum theatre and legislative theatre

Some forms of theatre, such as development theatre, directly address issues of poverty, health and education. They can include the participation of the audience and improvisation methods and a wide variety of mediums, such as comedy, dance, poetry and singing. They have been associated with the work of Augusto BOAL, a director and writer, and his Theatre of the Oppressed (2000), connected with Paulo FREIRE's educational work Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2000). In "Forum Theatre" the play is meant to stimulate a response (and "empower"), the audience can offer ways forward to change the situation on a re-showing of the events by saying (or even coming forward) how they would proceed by alternative, practical paths (JACKSON, 1997, p.48). "Legislative Theatre" uses drama in an attempt to formulate and change laws and policy and so help the lives of groups who have particular material or health needs or are facing discrimination or oppression. The idea has been taken up by charities and other bodies as a means of presenting health, education or other needs to those who have the power to effect legislation. [55]

4.2 Improvisional theatre

Improvisational Theatre has a long history in theatre but more recently owes its development from the 1950s to the ideas of "theatre games" of Viola SPOLIN and Keith JOHNSTONE. It has developed to a form of theatre in which actors do not rely on a script but "improvise" during performance. It attempts to have a strong audience connection and can be found in comedy performance, in drama therapy and forms of political theatre. SPOLIN's son, Paul SILLS was a founder of Story Theatre in the late 1960s (see http://www.paulsills.com/workshops.htm). [56]

4.3 Playback theatre

Playback Theatre has its origins in improvisational theatre and was founded in the mid 1970s by Jo SALAS and Jonathan FOX. It can be performed with an audience of individuals with health or other problems and relevant professionals and could be considered as a form of drama therapy. It is also influenced by the work of BOAL, oral history and story-telling tradition. Members of an audience are invited to provide personal stories which are then improvised by actors and musicians (ROWE, 2005). [57]

4.4 Drama therapy and psychodrama

Psychodrama was developed by Jacob L. MORENO as a part of psychotherapeutic work which incorporates theatrical elements "consisting essentially in getting an individual to reproduce spontaneously on a stage, and before an audience in some cases, the structure of a situation already discovered to be highly significant ... (T)his method has also been employed for group psychotherapy, and when specifically employed for this purpose it becomes sociodrama" (DREVER, 1964, pp.230-231). MORENO is credited with the notion of "group therapy" and his work on "role-playing" has had a very wide influence further than psychodrama itself (KOVEL, 1978, p.231). Psychodrama inspired "Drama Therapy" that has many varieties (improvisational, games, role-play, etc.), and takes place in many settings (education, health, etc.) and with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Its cousin, "Art Therapy" (a term first used in the 1940s, see HOGAN, 2001), employing painting, sculpture, photography, etc., is similarly varied (see MALCHIODI, 2006). Traditional Art Therapy continues to be a "diagnostic" tool in psychotherapy, rather than an actual "therapeutic" activity. An interesting "classic" ethnographic study relevant here is PANETH's (1944) research and work with "slum" children in wartime London, which included the drawings that they produced. Here, there are connections, in the use of art or other activities, with adventure playgrounds, play centres and detached youth work—and with local communal projects. While both drama therapy and art therapy have particular objectives, they both aim to improve individual well being and personal development. [58]

4.5 Political theatre/alternative theatre (in Britain)

It can be argued that all theatre is in some sense "political" (in that any performance can induce some change, however small, in audience members). But, an overt political intent has been "accepted as defining a left-wing theatre, critical of the capitalist system and expressing in its work the need for radical change" (GOORNEY, 2006, p.1): [59]

During the late 1920s, in Britain, there were several hundred theatre groups associated with the Left Book Club Theatre and the Communist Party. By the late 1930s much of this activity had faded due to the rise of the Popular Front across the Left, the fall in unemployment and the turn towards fighting Fascism. In the immediate post-war period Theatre Workshop toured working class areas and local community theatres began. The "alternative theatre" of today began during the 1960s with the formation of various left-wing groups, who began to receive some public subsidy (GOORNEY, 2006). In the late 1960s and early 1970s socialist and other radical theatre groups, in Britain, began to raise important social issues (e.g., 7:84 and Red Ladder theatre companies). [60]

4.6 Local and organisational oral history

Communal groups carrying out local histories of place or local organisation have grown rapidly in number during the last 30 years and not only have published books and produced videos but given performances of their work through readings and drama (see, for example, reports in Oral History journal in Britain). The idea of "performance" has been taken up in local oral history study (and historical work more generally), for example, in the process of "remembering" and as a commentary on communal, family or other changes (POLLOCK, 2005; see also POLLOCK, 1998). [61]

A Performative Social Science, certainly if it takes on a explicit remit to include "personal and social change" through the "performative tools" of drama (in its various forms, including comedy, musicals, etc.), will need to examine the practices of these "theatres for change" in framing, collecting, representing and dissemination of research. It will also require an examination of the "boundaries"—or relation—with theatrical forms and professionals in terms, for instance, of purpose, expertise and collaboration, "evaluation" and involvement, and connection between "subjects" and audiences. But, there must also be recognition of "academic" and organisational constraints—what is deemed "permissible", in terms of research and reporting, by academic bodies, funding agencies, etc. and how these demands can be met. One potential proving ground for such connectivities, between the social sciences and artistic fields, is through cross-disciplinary efforts within the academia. For instance, social science disciplines by forging more formal relationships with drama departments, art and media schools, etc., can open up new possibilities for research practices. [62]

5. Ethnographic Film and Photography, and Documentary Film and TV

Scripted dramas based on field notes, research reports and interviews are one means of "performance ethnography" or "ethnodrama". However, there is a long history of the use of film and photography in the social sciences, especially in anthropology and ethnography, of the research "field". In the last twenty years there has been the "re-emergence" of "visual anthropology" and also the development of "visual sociology" (e.g. Visual Sociology journal). There is also a parallel history, from the birth of film, of the documentary, portraying scenes of everyday life such as street activities, celebrations, work-life and leisure activities. [63]

5.1 Visual anthropology

By the 1920s and 1930s there were a number of ethnographic films associated with anthropology. In the 1940s films by Margaret MEAD and Gregrory BATESON were made and after WWII there followed a range of substantial films in the field. In terms of "ethnographic photography", examples can be found as early as the 1890s. Anthropologists have used photographs in fieldwork interviews to illicit replies, or as "an aide-de-memoire, similar to written field notes", or published as illustrations or used in lectures and exhibitions—but commonly these were archived with field notes and "usually forgotten'' (RUBY, 1996, p.1346). In sociology, as BECKER (1986) points out, there are examples of the use of photography in early social surveys and in the early years of the AJS but photographs have been neglected until more recently within social science research (see BANKS, 2001; ROSE, 2001). Conversely, outside of social science, it can be said that photographers have seen one of their prime intentions to delve into society—from early documentary, to the social reportage/photo-essay of the 1920-40s and the "photo-journalism" and "activism" of the 1960s (BECKER, 1986, 1995). [64]

In Europe a pioneer and innovator in anthropological or ethnographic film was Jean ROUCH during the 1950s and 1960s. Some of his early work was criticised for "ethnocentricism" due to its concentration on the "bizarre" but there has been some re-evaluation and celebration of his work due to its surrealist influences and intent to "share power" with the audience (and his work was followed by others working in a similar vein in the 1960s) (RUBY, 1996, p.1349). With the growth of television, anthropology has benefited from educational programmes and collaboration with programme makers, for example in Great Britain, the film company Granada, in producing films and training (RUBY, 1996, p.1350). However, according to one view (PINK, 2006a, p.9), by the 1950s "anthropology had experimented with and rejected the senses, visual methods and technologies, and applied practice". Instead, the predominant intent was to found the discipline upon scientific theory and principles, with a practice based on "long-term fieldwork, its relativism and comparative project" (PINK, 2006a, p.9). During the early 1970s the position of ethnographic film within the discipline began to shift, followed by the founding of the Society for the Anthropology of Visual Communication within the American Anthropological Association and also the appearance of the Studies in Visual Communication journal (PINK, 2006a, p.10). Since then the "visual" area has expanded rapidly (see BANKS & MORPHEY, 1999; GRIMSHAW & RAVETZ, 2004; HOCKINGS, 2003). [65]

Visual anthropologists criticised anthropology for being a "word-driven discipline" which neglected the "visual-pictorial world", "perhaps because of distrust of the ability of images to convey abstract ideas" (RUBY, 1996, p.1351). They pointed out that anthropological practice was based on the translation of fieldwork experiences into a textual form in the fieldnotes and then again worked upon through "analytic methods and theories" (RUBY, 1996, p.1351). This "logocentric approach to understanding denies much of the multisensory experience of trying to know another culture". On the contrary, visual anthropology begins with idea that "culture is manifested through visible symbols embedded in gestures, ceremonies, rituals, and artefacts situated in constructed and natural environments" (RUBY, 1996, pp.1351,1345). For PINK, the stress on "textualisation" did enable "reflexivity" to emerge (already found within visual anthropology) but was restrictive in its "rejection of the comparative paradigm" whose theories and methods were "accused of supporting European imperialism and undermined by a critique of its claims to objectivity". PINK (2006a, pp.12,14) argues that anthropology had become a "monomedia" broadly rejecting "applied interventions", the study of the "senses", and the use of visual technologies. [66]

While early visual anthropology began with a positivistic notion that "an objective reality is observable", as it progressed a more "tentative" approach to the "cultural reality" of differing cultures and contexts—as "socially constructed"—and to the positioning of the researcher developed (RUBY, 1996, p.1345). Even so, there was a restriction due to the perceived differences between the "aesthetic conventions of filmaking" (e.g. shifting event/time sequences) and the "requirements of positivism for researchable data" (RUBY, 1996, p.1347). But for RUBY (writing over ten years ago) these "naïve assumptions about the differences between the art of film and the science of anthropology are slowly being replaced by a conception of film as a culturally bound communication usable in a variety of discourses" (RUBY, 1996, p.1347). [67]

A definitional question remains regarding "ethnographic film"—there is no commonly accepted definition: Does it merely refer to films produced by anthropologists or are there differences in content, "aesthetics" and purpose when compared with other film genres? A complication is that visual anthropology was not at first part of mainstream anthropology, and has drawn upon other disciplines such as sociology or cultural studies, as well as performance, dance and film (RUBY, 1996, p.1345). [68]

PINK (2006a) argues that the "crisis of representation" brought by an examination of traditional assumptions regarding the "text" encouraged anthropologists to use "experimental forms" of writing. It also stimulated new means of representing the "sensory embodied and visual aspects of culture", not only ethnographic film and photography (see COLLIER, 1967), but also "theatrical" "performance anthropology". Importantly, there are now further opportunities offered by the rise of computers and digital technology in the 1980s and 1990s, with the coming of hypermedia in anthropology (PINK, 2006a, p.14):

"visual anthropology might be redefined as not simply the anthropology of the visual and the use of visual methods in research and representation, but as the anthropology of the relationship between the visual and other elements of culture, society, practice and experience and the methodological practice of combining visual and other media in the production and representation of anthropological knowledge" (PINK, 2006a, pp.143-4; see also PINK, 2006b). [69]

As, PINK (2006a, p.105) observes, "hypermedia" can bring together "written theoretical, descriptive, pedagogical and applied anthropology narratives with reflexive audiovisual and photographic representations of knowledge and experience that can only be communicated (audio) visually". For a performative social science, the attention to the "visual" (brought by work in anthropology in particular) highlights the centrality of the enacted, embodied, communicative-symbolic performative dimensions of lives, alongside the verbal-textual, and the possibilities that new technology can bring. [70]

5.2 Documentary film and tv (in Britain)

The boundaries between "ethnographic film" and other film (both "factual" and "fictional") are inexact. The distinction between "ethnographic film" (itself diverse in form) and the varieties of "documentary film" seems particularly blurred. "Performance ethnography" when constructed through film must consider the merits of "documentary film"—especially, if some emancipatory, participatory intent is included, since many documentaries spotlight a social issue and may have a "political" edge. Here there is the important question of any sharing of aesthetics between forms of film. In terms of documentary, there is a rising interest in its history, definitional concerns, and issues such as the use of new technologies (see, BEATTIE, 2004; CORNER, 1996; ELLIS & McLANE, 2005; IZOD, KILBORN & HIBBERD, 2000; RENOV, 1993; RUSSELL, 2007; VAUGHAN, 1999). [71]

Documentaries have their origin in the silent cinema in Britain, Russia, USA, Germany and elsewhere with "street films", films of "other cultures", "travelogues", filmed events (sports, festivals) or workplaces, and early natural history films. Many of these drew upon camera tricks and elements of popular theatre (see RUSSELL, 1999, Pt.II). Some of these "documentary" or "actuality films" aimed to have a more "poetic" aspect and the coming of sound added a musical dimension (e.g., "city symphonies"). In Britain, the work of GRIERSON, CAVALCANTI and others addressed working life during the late 1920s and 1930s (see SWANN, 1990; BFI, 2008). The film Night Mail (1936) and the work of Humphrey JENNINGS are good examples of the "poetic" or "lyrical" approach to documentary making. JENNINGS was influenced by surrealism and engaged in painting and various forms of writing, including editing the posthumously published Pandaemonium—a collage of images from contemporary writers, poets, scientists and others between 1660-1886 on the coming of the machine (JENNINGS, 1985; see also JACKSON, 2004; REMY, 1999). Such organisations as the Empire Marketing Board, GPO Film Unit, and the Ministry of Information (in WWII) produced a range of films during the period (BFI, 2008). There were also radical filmmaking (and photographic) groups during the inter-war period and charity and community workers made short films in "depressed areas" such as South Wales. In 1937, Mass Observation, founded by Tom HARRISSON, an anthropologist, Charles MADGE, a poet, and Humphrey JENNINGS, began to report on everyday life and give ordinary people a "voice"—an "anthropology of ourselves". Various artists were associated with the organisation, including Humphrey SPENDER, a photographer (see CALDER & SHERIDAN, 1984; JACKSON 2004; SPENDER, 1982). [72]

During the 1950s, "Free Cinema" (Lindsay ANDERSON et al.) sought to enhance the documentary tradition. It perhaps had some influence on the "Kitchen Sink" (British "realist") novels, drama and films of the 1950s and early 1960s—for example, the famous play Look Back in Anger (1956, film 1958); films (from novels) such as Room at the Top 1958, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 1960, and others; and early TV series (Coronation Street 1960-, Z Cars 1962-78) and documentaries. New writers for theatre, novels, films and TV (e.g. OSBORNE, SILLITOE, PLATER) often grew up in (and gave semi-autobiographical depictions of) working class or lower middle class life in (usually) English industrial cities. By the 1960s and 1970s TV also provided an outlet for plays with strong social themes, such as Cathy Come Home 1966, and Edna the Inebriate Woman, 1971. On TV there was also the rise of "fly on the wall", "fact/fiction", "docu-soap" formats, and also the growth of political documentaries (see BFI, 2008). An early example of "fly on the wall" documentary was The Family (BBC, 1974) which filmed the everyday life of a working class family (in the US there was An American Family, 1973). Also of note is the (continuing) "Up" TV Series (Michael APTED, Granada/BBC) in Britain which interviewed a varied group of seven year olds in 1964 and re-interviews them every seven years about their lives. [73]

A number of internationally known British filmmakers using forms of "realism" in their films have become established in the last thirty years—sometimes engaging "real people" as actors and employing improvisation techniques to address social conditions and issues affecting individual lives (e.g., Ken LOACH, Mike LEIGH). Various British films, sometimes with a comic appeal, but also with a "realist edge" touching on deeper social themes, have found a very wide international audience (e.g. Educating Rita, 1983; Brassed Off, 1996; The Full Monty, 1997; East is East, 1999; Billy Elliott, 2000; Bend it Like Beckham, 2002; Brick Lane, 2007). [74]

Filmmakers, connecting with developments in other arts (dance, poetry, music, theatre), can use video "documentary" methods, a variety of voices, collections of sound, multiple images—and follow various narrative paths, rather than having singular narrative direction, with new ways of seeing, experiencing and reflecting (DENZIN, 2003, pp.125, 270). Photography and film, while underused in previous social science—and latterly, video and the Web—are important "performative" media for "social science", which may not merely include filming research contexts or performances based on "research scripts" (e.g. interviews, field notes) but as means of working throughout the "research process". [75]

6. Performance, the Web and Digital Resources, Biomedical/Biotech Developments

A new and ever-expanding forum for performance is on the Internet. Text, sound, and images can be presented in endless ways—discussion groups, blog diaries, "communities" of various kinds, music, poetry and dance are all featured. "Virtual ethnography" and "digital life stories" (HARDEY, 2004) have emerged as diverse practices, each with its own relation with "traditional" approaches, e.g. "ethnography on/of/through the Internet", "cyberethnography", "networked ethnography", "connective ethnography", and so on (DOMINGUEZ et al., 2007). The Internet is providing increasingly diverse sources of information and practice (even by adapting "traditional" methods such as interviews), arenas for "performing lives", means of representation, and "genres" (fact-fiction) or, in other words, research as/on/by performance on the Web—relevant for performative social science research: [76]

6.1 Weblogs

Weblogs have become an enormous part of the Web as individuals write and provide text and "share" their daily lives, from featuring mundane everyday life through to reports back from areas of conflict. It has become an arena for individuals to give fact-fictional accounts. "Blogging" has become an increasing source of "news" about the social world. Michael KEREN (2005, p.203, see also KEREN, 2006) cautions that life writing "online" "attracts us to texts without having a way of knowing whether the identities presented in them are real or fake". He adds that while this is "acceptable" in traditional fiction, or plays and film, "blogging" raises important issue of "trust" in a context where individuals may get their news from others "substituting for a mass media that is widely mistrusted". [77]

6.2 MySpace, facebook, bebo, youtube, second life, flickr

The above Web sites have received a great deal of publicity recently; they are all ways of placing biographical materials and other materials on the Web by text, photographs/graphics, video or in some combination open to a given list of people or to the wider Web. Second Life is particularly interesting because it allows for the construction of "virtual selves" in composed environments. While Flickr does not merely enable the posting of photographs—these can be directly "autobiographical" and coupled with comments from other members. [78]

6.3 Digital storytelling—on the web

Digital Storytelling has become a focus for a very diverse set of media professionals, community educators, academics and others in recent years with the founding of an International Digital Storytelling network and a number of storytelling centres in universities. The rise of digital and web technologies, it is argued, allows for the "updating" of the ancient traditions of storytelling by adding new possibilities by the combination of voice and images in new "interactive" ways. New technologies also allow for a distribution—and interaction with—both local and wider audiences across time and space. Media companies have provided resources, including training, in producing digital stories by the "public"—which are often broadcast on TV or the Web. For example, in 1993 the BBC began "Video Nation" (and more latterly there is BBC Wales's—"Capture Wales"). Digital storytelling is said to draw on the long tradition of storytelling as "performance" (see WILSON, 2005; OCHS & CAPPS, 2001 and the work of Joseph CAMPBELL). [79]

6.4 Digital autobiographical and biographical archives

Diaries, letters, autobiographies, biographies and other material held by museums and other organisations such as archive and research institutions are increasingly being catalogued and made available in digital form and accessible via the Web, providing resources for a performative social science. [80]

6.5 Genealogical research on the web

Access to national census and other materials from Government and other archives is being made easier by the Web and are being used to form biographical, family portraits. Various popular magazines and "genealogical companies" are also providing access to Web and other materials to trace ancestry. Genealogical materials give the opportunity for research-performance of individual and communal histories—and, thereby, recasting of identities and "roots". TV programmes such as "Who do you think you are?" (BBC, 2006) which shows celebrities tracing their ancestry through the Web and archives are very popular. [81]

6.6 Pervasive and locative arts and multi-media arts

"Pervasive and Locative media" is a relatively new field founded on mobile technologies (WiFi, GPS, locative sensors, etc.) which are sensitive to specific place. The intent is to explore in a very active way the interaction between individuals and the physical environment (e.g., the history of place, the relation between places—by forms of mapping, location sensitive games or tasks, and "walking projects"). An interesting feature of this work is how "practitioners" of "pervasive and locative arts" move across and interrelate "mutli-media and "multi-art"—using a range of technology in drawing across the arts. In fact, many contemporary artists are also increasingly exploring multi-media across artistic and technological boundaries using sound and video/film collage, music composition and forms of performance (e.g., Christian MARCLAY, David ROKEBY). [82]

6.7 New technologies—recording and archiving lives

Research collaboration across the natural and social sciences is taking place using digital, Web and other means on issues such as "memory" in relation to "storing" life experiences, for example, The Memories for Life Network (M4L) (UK) and Microsoft's MyLifeBits. [83]

Meanwhile, the Digital Camera, 3G phone, MP3 players, Video cameras, personal organisers and so on are providing new opportunities for mini-documentaries. Photographs and video of everyday events (or an event that is "newsworthy") can now be sent to others by various means or uploaded on the Web. Technologically, it is becoming ever easier to record our "performances" as researchers, or as "participants"—with such role lines becoming blurred—as "recording" our lives becomes an everyday occurrence. [84]

6.8 "Surveillance society" and "surveillance of ourselves"

Britain seems to be a leader in the use of technology for surveillance and policing, e.g. CCTV (in residential properties and areas, businesses, shopping centres, as speed cameras, in number plate recognition, in spotting unusual behaviour, cameras in police cars or on the police themselves) and fingerprinting/photography for border security. British police are testing mobile fingerprinting (a device for fingerprinting linked to a national computer) and even possibly "camera drones" in the sky. "Everyday behaviour" is being recorded (filmed, tracked) and personal bio-characteristics "scanned" and individuals "profiled" (see PLUMMER, 2002, p.99). Some of the material from CCTV finds it way onto TV in crime reports or as "info-tainment" programmes showing the policing chasing stolen cars, drunken street behaviour, or as pictures of crime victims and perpetrators, so on. Meanwhile, juvenile attackers have been known to record their assaults (or other "exploits") by cameraphone and place them on the Web. Again, more mundanely, the "multi-media" of the phone or other devices—with photographs, video—have produced the means of recording and reporting "performance" in our daily activities, including our reactions and emotions. At some later date, perhaps not too far ahead, there may well be routine or continuous collection, storage and retrieval of daily experience available for immediate or longer term individual review—even by some technological-organic, two-way linkage between "gadget" and brain. At that point, by this "enhanced memory", we will be able to "rewind" our past performances by our personalised video-sensual recorder. [85]

These diverse technological developments provide new and expanded ways of collecting, recording and transmitting informal or formal "performances" whether they are "rehearsed" by individuals for others or caught surreptitiously by official agencies. New technologies provide new avenues (and ethical and other challenges) for a performative social science—emergent kinds of research relationships and practices between researcher, other professionals in the arts, "subjects" and audiences—and a disruption of the time of traditional research "steps" from formulation and collection to analysis and dissemination. [86]

6.9 Biomedical/biotech developments

The social sciences from the early 1980s began (under the influence of Foucault and others) to recognise the importance of the "body" or "embodiment" in relation to the construction of identity, social relations, and power and social control (ROBERTS, 2006, pp.149-152). For some, the neglect of the body for consideration in social theorisation and social science research was due to the traditional mind/body dualism in social thought. The growth of bio-technologies in reproductive processes, genetic medical interventions, DNA mapping and genetic fingerprinting, body modification and replacement, and so on, will have increasingly profound social implications. The investigations into the origins of widespread diseases and the rise of vaccination, the discovery of antibiotics, and high-tech surgery, have been followed by techniques to grow organs and the mapping of the human genome resulting from the computerisation of bio data. Some of the recent biological interventions were being predicted in detail as far back as the 1960s by popular writers (c.f. RATTRAY-TAYLOR, 1968). A performative social science must reflect how "biomedical" advances and their implications will impact on how lives and social relations are experienced, perceived and performed—how we regard the use our bodies (e.g. the ageing process), generational relations and human identity. As PLUMMER concludes (perhaps ominously) the "stories of our life are starting to penetrate our very 'souls'" (PLUMMER, 2002, p.99). [87]

7. Problems with the idea of "Performance"

There are several major related issues surrounding the idea of performance, including the definition of "performance", the nature of "representation", and "presentism". [88]

7.1 The use of the term "performance"

BURKE (2005, p.42) argues that the "performative turn" has led to certain problems, for example, "the postmodern reaction against social determinism is in danger of going too far and denying the cultural or institutional constraints on effective performances". Also, there is the possibility of over-applying the idea of performance so that every aspect of social life is included (BURKE, 2005, p.43). As an historian, Burke notes the widespread application of the term in historical studies to a wide range of phenomena (e.g. identities, power, art, and use of language). He advocates a greater interrogation of the meaning of "performance" and its use, and also discrimination between "stronger" and "weaker" notions of the term. He posits the idea of "occasionalism" with an emphasis on action: "the basic point is that on different occasions (moments, locales) or in different situations (in the presence of different people) the same person behaves in different ways" (BURKE, 2005, p.36). [89]

BURKE (2005) argues that a means of assuaging these problems is to understand "performance" in two ways. First, in its "stronger" sense performance can be used in the study such phenomena as festivals and rituals; in its lesser use, it can be attributed to "the informal scenarios of everyday life". He describes what he sees as a "the rise of occasionalism"; where particular "locales" "encourage or at least facilitate switching between different roles and performances. The city is an obvious instance" (BURKE, 2005, pp.43-45). [90]

The "occasionalist turn", BURKE (2005, p.47) argues, enables a critique of "historical method" since it challenges "simple linear accounts of social or cultural change", gives "attention" to "objects and activities" that were not seen as important (e.g. "clothes, everyday language, dancing and gesturing"), does not "assume consistency in the behaviour of individuals", and is more cautious of generalising from particular situations to the culture as a whole. ALEXANDER (2004) offers a rather different, and complex, perspective on the elements of "social performances" connecting "ritual" and "strategy"—elements that tend to be separated, as society has become more complex (see also ALEXANDER et al., 2006). [91]

7.2 Representation

Do performed "texts" reflect experienced life? For example, there can be different approaches to the relation between "lived life" and its later "performance" (in the arts)—the latter, as working from memory in faithfully reflecting past experience, or while recognising that the past is constructed in the present it can still create some "feel" of previous experience, or that the performance bears little relation to its previous "inspiration". Here, are the fraught questions of "memory" and "experience"—can experience be "relived" or are "performed texts" (whether drama, film, etc.) always merely some form of imitation (see, DENZIN, 2001, p.16)? There is also the further issue of how the researcher is to "assess" and theorise "performance texts"—to what extent can a performance be reflexive, a critique of past experience and how can it be placed theoretically in its wider context or must it remain at the "level" of experience, resisting theorisation? At the very least, it has to be clear in a performative social science in which sense or senses performance is being used—more specifically, how performative modes of research are being "applied", for example, in relation to understandings of past, present and future experience. [92]

In broad terms, there can be a drift in emphasis in the use of "performance" (e.g. in ethnographic drama) from reference to the "actual context" to the situation of the "performance" of it (the "acting out" of the previous experience). This may be due to an uncertainty regarding retrospection—the uncertain "nature" of the previous experience and, therefore, a reliance on the produced "text". This can be said to be a "drift" from those whose story it is of the social world to those who perform it—unless performance is by the "subjects" themselves or as an "interactive" audience", or experience and performance enjoined. (For discussion of these questions see, GERGEN & JONES, Editorial, in this Issue) [93]

7.3 "Presentism"?

From the above, there may be a tendency towards "presentism" in a performative approach—it is the performance that has authority and authenticity. Rather than the prior event is it the "sociology of the happening" devoid of its historical or contemporary context? Starting with the written text, WORTHEN (2004, p.18) asks, "What are the consequences of conceiving reading as the domain of textual domination, of the explicit transmission of the repressive and canonical authority of dominant culture, and of performance as the means of evading such authority?" He points to an example of a workshop collaboration between SCHECHNER, Victor TURNER (and Edie TURNER) and students (from New York University) engaged in re-enacting the rituals for the Ndembu people, and argues:

"At the moment that this performance becomes truly intercultural and intertextual—when, we might say, the rituals of NYU and the Ndembu finally deconstruct one another, subvert notions of authorized performance altogether—it loses its value for Turner, precisely because that 'authentic' other disappears from view, is replaced by a performance whose only authority is in the performance itself" (WORTHEN, 2004, pp.18-19, see TURNER, 1982, 1986, 2004; TURNER & TURNER, 2004). [94]

At its simplest the "binary" between the "authority" of the text and "authority" of performance appears to remain. To collapse the separation of prior event from its performance by the formation of materials within an artistic research practice may also have its problems. At its most radical, the view would be that to understand a part of social life it has to be performed, participated in (be ethnographic) but thereby performed in the context rather than later represented and analysed (in poetry, drama, etc.). Rather than the arts being used to represent or as a research practice to gain material, to express experience—the "research" and the "representation" of a situation are united. This raises a problem regarding the position of analysis and reflexivity—of the distinctiveness of sociological research and practice. If all is performance, including sociological practice then does "research" disappear? [95]

8. Role of the Researcher: Sociological and Performative Practice

The descriptions of performative social science research as "blurring" or "crossing" disciplinary boundaries—drawing on means of collection, presenting and disseminating material from various performative practices has implications for how social scientists will engage in their field. How far will the social scientist become (beyond what s/he may be now) a performer—a poet, actor, playwright, dancer, choreographer, flaneur, dreamer? For example, "Moving into the realm of performance ... takes the researcher into different territory that includes casting, directing, performing, and staging ... These are not skills that researchers are ordinarily equipped with" and may include little comprehension of what may be involved (SPARKES, 2002, p.144). [96]

There are potential dangers in social scientists drawing from the arts—or, at least, from some assumptions and perceptions of the arts. The "artist" or "performer" may appear to be an attractive figure, the arts more creative, intuitive, or representing "reality" in some more "truthful" manner. Here, are the possibilities for projections and idealisations. Just as recently art has looked towards ethnographical practice to meet its problems, so social science in the past (in ethnography), and particularly recently, has seen the attraction of the arts. As FOSTER, 1996, p.180) comments on the recent interchanges between anthropology and art:

"some critics of anthropology developed a kind of artist envy ... the artist became a paragon of formal reflexivity, a self-aware reader of culture understood as text. But is the artist the exemplar here, or is this figure not a projection of an ideal ego of the anthropologist: the anthropologist as collagist, semiologist, avant-gardist. In other words, might this artist envy be a self-idealization in which the anthropologist is remade as an artistic interpreter of the cultural text?" [97]

8.1 The researcher and collaboration

The researcher may seek collaboration, for example, with those in the theatre, which may "not only increase the likelihood of producing an effective drama, but it would also show due respect for others' artistic skills" SPARKES (2002, p.145). For SPARKES (2002, pp.144-145), "More typically, a social scientist writes a script based on his or her research and then either performs it him/herself or looks for other people to perform it". But, he argues "the model of a single researcher/writer/director may be warranted for the rare individual who is multitalented". In this view, moving across disciplinary and practice boundaries entails collaboration with those in other fields for effective research, representation and connection with audiences. Even so, we can argue that the researcher must have some "working knowledge" of other fields—their "ways of doing" and "theorisation of practice". But, can we push this further, and ask how far can researchers be "sited" in this way by being practitioners across disciplinary practices? After-all many artists do cross a wide variety of practices (multi-sound/visual media, genres of painting, sculpture, etc.) with expertise in several. Of course, there is also the involvement of artists in other artistic forms (e.g. as set designers, lighting and sound artists, and choreographers, and so on in the theatre). Interestingly, while there are now many examples of the researcher-as-performer this is often in the context of "auto-ethnography" (e.g., a personal story of illness or other difficulty as a monologue or in poetry). We can say that social science researchers can collaborate (JONES, 2006, p.71) with those who have necessary skills from other fields—see, for example, the fruitful cooperative work of Kip JONES and (filmaker) Ben MALLABY (2007)—and, in doing so, perhaps gain a wider range of skills and knowledge of "performative" tools and methods. [98]

DENZIN (2001, p.11) likens the role researcher/ethnographer to a "literary and intimate" public journalist—a view, he says, that strengthens the idea of ethnography as a "as a performer-centred form of storytelling" and adds that "a shared public consciousness is shaped by a form of writing that merges the personal, the biographical, with the public". In this Special Issue we are extending beyond ethnography and ethnotheatre to explore possibilities for interconnection across the arts. For JONES (2006, p.67), using the example of narrative research:

"As collage-makers, narrators of narrations, dream weavers, however, narrative researchers are natural allies of the arts and humanities. In practical terms, promising possibilities include, but are not limited to, performance, film, video, audio, graphic arts, new media (CD ROM, DVD, and web-based production), poetry and so forth". [99]

It seems the opening up of the interlinkings between social science and the arts raises not only practical and deeper methodological questions (epistemological/representational, etc.) concerning the materials used but also questions regarding the skills (practical and aesthetic) and "identity" of the qualitative researcher. What kind of "person" would the qualitative researcher be and how far "away" from those traditional in qualitative and quantitative social science—as "scientist", "reformer", "statistician", "detached observer"; "humanistic informant/interpreter", etc.? More recently, as JONES (2006, p.67) describes above, in qualitative research various notions have been raised (e.g. "bricoleur", "cultural critic") showing the conception of the sociologist moving perhaps more towards that of "artist/narrativist" in doing research. In this connection some writers have referred to Benjamin's discussion of the "flaneur" and noted the "montage" effect of his Arcades Project (see BENJAMIN, 1999; New Formations, 2004/5). It is perhaps worth noting here that there is some initial similarity in his approach regarding "montage" (and on the notion of "images") in the more complex Arcades Project and Humphrey JENNINGS's historical survey Pandaemonium. Both writers were influenced, although differently, by Surrealism, see JENNINGS 1985; see also CALDERBANK, 2003; MacCLANCY, 1995, 2001; MENGHAM, 2001). [100]

A problem in defining performative social science is the tendency to categorise the various efforts of collaboration and "cross-over" as singular attempts divorced from each other. In truth, those working "best" in performative social science are working across several boundaries at once: producing a "script"; forging an audio/visual piece; using audience feedback and interpretation; uploading outputs to the Web, etc. There is not one category of performative social science, then, but rather, the use of performative tools from varied arenas as suits the purpose. For instance, in making this argument, it is too easy to resort to conceiving performative social science as merely involving some extension of "theatre" rather than as exploring a plethora of approaches "combining" social sciences and the arts. [101]

8.2 Performance and critical practice

Performative Social Science, certainly performative ethnography, has an explicit interest in "change" and even in advocacy. For example, DENZIN (2001, p.16) argues for a "minimalist, performative social science" which is concerned with "stories, performances, and storytelling" which "create a ritual space" in which people can congregate and listen to others, engage in an experience and place themselves within their social environment. [102]

If we follow the pedagogic direction of advocacy, activism, and politics—then the question may by asked: what is the difference between a "performative ethnography" and previous and contemporary political theatre? Do we need "real" stories at all drawn from research—may not fictionalised experience have an authenticity in still reflecting important "realities" and issues? An underlying problem here, again, is that a broader conception of performative social science is required that goes beyond "performance" to the "performative" or the range of "tools", "methodologies" that can span the boundaries between the social sciences and arts. [103]

Beyond comparisons between social science and theatre or some other artistic practice, there is a broader question of socio-cultural context. How, or to what extent, are experiences or the means of interpreting experience "found" in research intimately shaped in some way by the dominant imperatives of the society? In a "cinematic" (DENZIN, 1995), "interview" (ATKINSON & SILVERMAN, 1997) or "auto/biographical" (PLUMMER, 2002) society, are dominant meanings and ways of understanding experience so pervasive that the individuals' interpretations of daily "real experience" are broadly shaped by general discourses, for instance, in the media? Are contrary accounts limited, rendered inauthentic or neutralised? Indeed, how is our reflexivity as both researcher and narrator possible given the pervasiveness of dominant discourses? Performance studies (e.g. in its use of ethnography) does recognise that hegemonic meanings can be challenged. But, there is a problem here that needs to be addressed. If radical perspectives are taken to inform types of performative work then there are deep (and "traditional") questions for the performative researcher—and a debate that dates back in sociology to (at least) GOULDNER (1975) and BECKER's (1967) discussion of "Whose side are we on?" For example, issues of "false consciousness" in individuals' accounts of their situation and the "need" for "consciousness raising" can be raised. Here, are awkward concerns for the researcher in how to treat the experiences and societal understandings given by others—in simple terms, on the one hand to remain "faithful" to individuals' accounts and restricting theorisation, or on the other, provide some broader theorisation, "critique" and encourage individuals' reflection? [104]

9. "The Performative Turn"?

The "performative turn" is yet another "moment"—in addition to the to "cultural", "linguistic", "visual", "embodiment" and other "turns" that have occurred in the last twenty-five or more years. However, there may be something deeper, beneath all of these "turns" which is taking place. Perhaps, what is emerging at a societal level is shifts in the way we "communicate". According to FINNEGAN (2002, pp.28-29) "communication" can include the performative, visual, embodiment, etc. as interactive between individuals "across time and space", a "multidimensional spectrum of acting and experiencing", "more, or less purposive, organised, conscious". She argues that individuals and groups as linked in a "variety of modes", with communication being "dynamic and emergent" exhibiting "mutuality" and "interconnectedness". From this, we can argue, that a performative social science must recognise a number of important, changing dimensions in individual lives and social interaction in research: the performative as enacting, as "virtual"-"digital", "communicative", and "sensual". The "performative turn", if it can be readily identified, is two simultaneous movements: a dissatisfaction with the tools available to produce and disseminate social science research and, secondly, a desire to engage in and reflect contemporary social change, for instance, occurring through such media as television, film, the Internet, etc. [105]

9.1 "Enacting" the social

LAW and URRY (2004) argue that a new direction is needed in social research. They say that "social inquiry and its methods are productive" not merely describing our surroundings, these "make" our social realities, and enact our social world. In this view the social sciences have to engage in a "re-imagination" of its practices and methods, especially as our social relations seem to be more complicated, more difficult to grasp and less predictable:

"Current methods do not resonate well with important reality enactments... with the fleeting—that which is here today and gone tomorrow, only to re-appear again the day after tomorrow... with the distributed—that is to be found here and there but not in-between—or that which slips and slides between one place and another ... with the multiple—that which takes different shapes in different places... with the non-causal, the chaotic, the complex. And such methods have difficulty dealing with the sensory—that which is subject to vision, sound, taste, smell; with the emotional—time-space compressed outbursts of anger, pain, rage, pleasure, desire, or the spiritual; and the kinaesthetic—the pleasures and pains that follow the movement and displacement of people, objects, information and ideas" (LAW & URRY, 2004, pp.403-404). [106]

In short, for LAW and URRY (2004, p.395) "the move here is to say that reality is a relational effect". Social inquiry can, therefore, be seen as broadly "performative"—as "enacting", "productive", "sensory", and "mutli-relational". [107]

9.2 "Virtual" or "digital" turn—multimedia and the web

Writers in performance studies have noted the rise of "multiple literacies" and "hypertexts" and the need for researchers to have some skills in new technologies (SCHECHNER, 2006, p.4). It is also becoming clear that digital technologies are having a "transformative effect" in biographical or narrative studies and in the broader social sciences. GIVEN (2006) argues that these technologies will further encourage methodological and theoretical developments and the interdisciplinarity of biographical-narrative studies. Problems of various kinds will be encountered, not least of all the "data deluge" of materials that are becoming available. GIVEN adds other dimensions: First, the traditional reliance on the text—the conversion of the recorded interview to the written word has become "strained at the limits" with researchers trying to reproduce the "performed" speech by highlighting, font types, and various editing conventions. The attempt, as GIVEN argues, has been to give the "emotional power" of live speech. Audio-visual recording provides for new creative, representational opportunities—"the nature of the "text" and the question of appropriate analytic procedures are radically changed". GIVEN points to the "embedded narratives" that researchers could attend to in photographs of people and places. Again, new challenges arise, here, interrelating text and image, illustration and analysis, and in terms of methodological criteria and theoretical application. Secondly, he argues that the existence of "large scale linked audio visual data bases" containing narrative materials gives a further challenge to the conventional distinction between qualitative and quantitative social science research, by new ways of combining data, e.g. by reference to other data sets. Thirdly, GIVEN (2006, p.58) argues that "collaborative approaches" could enable "the development of linked databases from dispersed locations and at the same time create new forms of feedback and virtual communities" including the breaking down of "professional, disciplinary and methodological boundaries" (e.g. in work with user groups in health and social care). [108]

Questions remain such as the "digital divide" between groups, but as GIVEN (2006) argues, the access and usage of new media such mobile phones, digital camcorders, digital cameras, MP3 players, personal organisers, and so on is now very wide. Also, the opportunities to edit and share digital materials are increasing rapidly. New possibilities are arriving as the means of digital storage become greater with attendant ethical questions regarding recording and access to personal materials video, photographs, email, phone calls, and text materials in digital archives (GIVEN, 2006). Virtual life stories and ethnographies are intricately "performative"—in their initial production, interconnections and interactivity with the "audience":

"Life stories may be put in digital form and made accessible with hypertext allowing the reader access to an electronic document where each page has many buttons which can lead you to further pages: you can access a life story and then find sounds, film clips, images, archives that are linked to the life. This life is not fixed, but one assembled through the reader" (PLUMMER, 2002, p.99). [109]

9.3 "Communicating"

The rise of digital technologies are providing new outlets for communication. However, it is important to place these—and the older use of text and visuals—within a broader conception of how we "communicate" or "perform" in social contexts. FINNEGAN (2002) argues that the examination of different perspectives on communication raise similar issues. For example, the degree that communication has to be conscious and verbal; the type of connection between actors (e.g. exchange, influence); and the content of communication (e.g. messages, meanings, symbols); and whether it involves new or older forms (FINNEGAN, 2002, p.28). FINNEGAN acknowledges that her definition does not have the specificity of some definitions, but "communicating" is not a simple phenomenon but varies, for example, in purpose, organisation and consciousness, according to time and spatial difference and degree of "shared conventions" (FINNEGAN, 2002, p.29). In addition, she says that people also deploy a number of "modes" to communicate to each other both face-to-face and separated by distance not only through language but other "media" such as "clothing, books, calligraphic systems, sculptures, textiles, paintings ... musical instruments, recording devices, set-piece performances, fragrances, broadcasting systems, computer screens and an infinitude of others" (FINNEGAN, 2002, p.31). [110]

In FINNEGAN's (2002, p.31) view, communication is a "dynamic and emergent process: a dimension of human activity not a separate entity": we communicate by sound, sight, body, odour, touch through "human arts and artifacts" and according to time and space. Through the ways we communicate—by the various modalities—societal assumptions, expectations and ideas are made and remade (e.g. on gender, see BUTLER, 1990). Ideologies, for instance, can be considered to be "socially choreographed" or performed in more formal situations, as in dance (e.g. on stage, in film), as well as in "everyday movement" (HEWITT, 2005). The emerging digital technologies, we can say, are therefore another addition or layer of communicative possibilities, while the current focus on "performance" opens up further considerations—the range and shifting nature of performance or how we communicate through a variety of channels and across many forms of representation, as well as how to employ performative methods. [111]

9.4 "Sensuality"—"coming to our senses"

Communication involves the "senses" or feelings that we experience and exchange. HOWES (2006) has argued (e.g. Empire of the Senses, HOWES, 2004; see also CLASSEN, 1993; PINK, 2006a, ch.3) for the crucial examination of the "senses" as central for individual and wider experience. In social research, such a focus is vital and a necessary replacement of the prominence given to the analysis or "reading" of the "text" (or discourse) within cultural research following the "linguistic turn" in which culture itself was seen as a "text". Within anthropology attention to the "senses" in research has a long history (c.f. Margaret MEAD in the 1930s). The developments in the 1960s were somewhat stalled in the 1970s with the rise of the "text" model for cultural analysis but the 1980s saw the "senses" emerge as an important field (see HOWES, 2003). [112]

HOWES (2006, para.5) argues that there is not merely a "turn" in the human sciences but a "revolution"—as they consider sensory, perceptual and aesthetic dimensions of cultural life and how these are constructed differently historically and across societies. In his view, in premodernity the senses were regarded as a "set" with each one associated with an element e.g. sight with fire. But, with the Enlightenment, he says, vision as associated with reason became dominant as society's "progressive rationalization" was connected to the growing "visualization of society and space". HOWES argues, that sensory meanings are connected to values through which individuals "make sense" of their surroundings or "translate sensory perceptions and concepts into a particular 'world view''' (HOWES, 2006, para.3). [113]

According to HOWES (2006, paras.4-5) the current "sensory studies" arrives at a key moment at the end of number of intellectual shifts. Again, the 1960s and 1970s there was the notion of culture "structured" like a "text" or "language" (due to influences of linguistics), while in the 1980s a "pictorial turn" gave attention to the visual aspects of culture and communication. In the 1990s the "corporeal turn" drew attention to the body or "embodiment" and the "material turn" gave a focus on "material culture" (HOWES, 2006). We could add here a number of other intervening "turns" which have been identified, for example the "spatial" (GREGORY & URRY, 1985) and "temporal" "turns" (see ADAM, 1990), the "narrative" or "biographical turn" and the "performative turn", all of which have been growing since the early 1980s, and more latterly, of course, the "digital turn". [114]

We can say that these "turns" are often associated and it can be asked what is actually meant by a "turn" (or "moment" c.f. DENZIN, 2001). Perhaps, a more multi-modal approach to performance is required, rather than moving a focus from one area to another. As HOWES (2006, para.5) concludes:

"While these different turns represent important shifts in models of interpretation, the emergent focus on the cultural life of the senses is more in the nature of a revolution. That is, the sensorial revolution in the human sciences encompasses and builds on the insights of each of these approaches, but also seeks to correct their excesses—by offsetting the verbocentrism of the linguistic turn; the visualism of the pictorial turn, the materialism of the material turn ... by emphasizing the dynamic, relational (intersensory, multimedia) nature of our everyday engagement with the world". [115]

The identification of these various "turns" shows the need for a more comprehensive theoretical and methodological approach—as indicated by the notions of "performative", "communicative" or "sensual". As GIVEN (2006, p.56) argues, new ways of working will be necessary:

"More sophisticated procedures will have to be developed that can take account of body language, facial expressions, and other elements of narrative performance that can then be linked to the more traditional approaches of transcript based analysis. Software developments that allow the tagging of such performative aspects of narrative interviews, and their linkage to transcript based data, already exist and can be expected to undergo further rapid development". [116]

The challenge for research is to be able to convey the range of "senses". As various writers have pointed out, film and video have limitations since their advantages lie in the audio-visual; textual materials cannot relate the "senses" directly although they can describe the variety of sensual experience. A "new" "performative" (or "sensorial" or "communicating") methodology will require an approach which can examine (through audio, visual, text, narration, etc.) the relation between the visual and other senses—as well as their interconnection with bodily and social bases of emotional experience—for a fuller understanding of everyday lives. Perhaps also, as PINK (2006a, p.42) argues, there is a deeper issue regarding the nature of "experience" itself—and, then, how it may be shifting in contemporary life. [117]

9.5 Turn, turn, turn!

The series of "turns" in theoretical conceptualisation and research practice are attempting to capture deep socio-historical shifts in society. Research writers have sought to indicate these societal changes and how they may be studied by terms (as mentioned earlier) such as "cinematic society" (DENZIN, 1995), "interview society" (ATKINSON & SILVERMAN, 1997), "auto/biographical society" (PLUMMER, 2002) and so on—adding, of course, to the more "established" terms, such as "post-traditional", "postmodern" or "global" society. [118]

An important way of considering the social developments above, for a performative social science, is to place them in a deeper socio-historical context. The numerous "turns" in social science can be seen as a series of shifts in focus as commentators become aware of further social changes, often in aspects of social life that have been relatively neglected in study, or in new kinds of social connection. The use of the term "performative" reflects the interrelated communicative, sensual, digital and biomedical changes which are taking place at a fast rate. For McKENZIE (see SCHECHNER, 2006, p.25) (drawing on FOUCAULT), "performance" has replaced the power-knowledge relation of "discipline" of the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, he argues, performative objects are "unstable rather than fixed"—with complex identities, with the intrusion of biological and "virtual" technologies and as shifting within multiplicities of discourses and practice sites, within many "socio-technical systems". Meanwhile, multimedia and the hypertextual processes are challenging the linearality of research processes. In all this the performative subject is produced in a fragmented, hyphenated fashion (McKENZIE in SCHECHNER, 2006, p.25). [119]

GOODSON commenting on the use of "storytelling" in the mass media provides a caution regarding new discourses: "Is it not more likely then that new discourses and voices that empower the periphery at one and the same time fortify, enhance, and solidify the old centres of power? In short, are we not witnessing the old game of divide and rule?" (GOODSON in ROBERTS, 2002, p.170). Thus, we should beware in accepting or forming any new categorisation of practices, since taken to the extreme categorisation can be a colonising process that distributes and distinguishes, rewards and impoverishes, empowers and subordinates. The notion of "performance", alongside "communicating" and the "sensual" are amongst the more "inclusive" descriptions of "turns" (or "revolutions") in the social sciences—each attempts, in a particular way, to understand the significant social changes which are affecting how we relate to each other. [120]

10. Epilogue: Questions for Performative Social Science

In summary, two practical questions arise for researchers intending qualitative study through performative social science:

  • What would a performative research "practice" in general or in a particular case, informed by the "enacted", "communicating", "sensual" etc.—the "multiple modes of human interconnection" (FINNEGAN, 2002), look like?

  • What kind of researcher is a "performative social science" researcher? One who is sensitive to "aesthetics", "critique", "reflexivity", is an "activist"? Who can "collaborate" with artists or other professionals and gain at least some knowledge of and explore "performative methods" derived from artistic fields? [121]

One immediate reply to these questions is that there is a difference between a general research "manifesto" (as advocating new kinds of qualitative research) and particular pieces of research by a researcher—who could choose to take up particular "new" collaborations, skills, and approaches according to abilities, "appropriateness", possibilities for working with others, or other criteria. Not everyone can be a KANDINSKY, who painted, designed, wrote poetry and for the stage, etc. and had undertaken and written on ethnographic study. However, we can all explore new skills and hidden abilities, but should not according to some passing whim or fashion; both old and new ways of "performing—doing" and "telling about society" (BECKER, 2007)—will provide insights into how we enact, communicate, sense, and affect social life. [122]


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Brian ROBERTS has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Birmingham, UK. His research interests include narrative, biography, and communal identities. In an former FQS issue, Brian published Political Activism and Narrative Analysis: The Biographical Template and the Meat Pot.


Brian Roberts

Professor of Biographical and Community Research
Forest Hall
Humanities and Social Science
University of Glamorgan
Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, Wales, United Kingdom

E-mail: Broberts@glam.ac.uk
URL: http://people.glam.ac.uk/view/1016/


Roberts, Brian (2008). Performative Social Science: A Consideration of Skills, Purpose and Context [122 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2), Art. 58, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802588.

Copyright (c) 2008 Brian Roberts

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