Locating the Gap between Grace and Terror: Performative Research and Spectral Images of (and on) the Road
Marking the site of death on the road with a shrine is an increasingly popular, global practice, one that has become particularly unsettling in the US where they are illegal but the practice continues to proliferate, regardless of institutional attempts to halt or regulate them. Indeed, a polyphony of voices express diverse opinions about the politics—and poetics—of the practice. Utilizing (and querying) the capabilities of a web-based forum such as this one, this performance ethnography takes one particular form of popular discourse and practice—the cybershrine "road tour"—as a model to performatively engage roadside shrines on the road and in cyberspace. In this essay I include flashes of insight and poetic treatments of my field notes, as well as embed into the written text maps, photographs, "hot-links" to cybershrines, and transcriptions and translations of my own tape recorded voice as I document—and struggle to come to terms with—these sites. These visual, aural, and imaginative images offer an alternate point of view to conventional representations of shrines in an attempt to ethically engage the suffering of singular and collective "others" in the places and spaces where life and death, living memory and selective forgetting, and everyday life and ideology converge and insist upon having a conversation with us.
performativity; cultural performance; performance ethnography; roadside shrines; cybershrines; ritual; complicity; resistance