Locating the Gap between Grace and Terror: Performative Research and Spectral Images of (and on) the Road

  • Rebecca M. Kennerly Georgia Southern University
Keywords: performativity, cultural performance, performance ethnography, roadside shrines, cybershrines, ritual, complicity, resistance


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. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802526


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Author Biography

Rebecca M. Kennerly, Georgia Southern University
Rebecca M. KENNERLY earned her Doctorate in Communication Studies, with a focus on Performance Studies, in 2005 from Louisiana State University, USA. Dr. Kennerly is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in the Communication Arts Department at Georgia Southern University, USA, where she teaches intercultural communication, performance ethnography and oral history, and experimental theater and performance. She has adapted and directed numerous literary and popular texts for the stage for Performance Works, an organization which produces faculty and student developed avant-garde theatre at Georgia Southern University, including an adaptation of Robert LOWELL's poem For the Union Dead, entitled Savage Servility: Of Bronze and Blood (2003-2004), an ethnographic interview-based student and faculty project about the Statesboro Packing House entitled Unpacking the Packinghouse: Of Myth, Meat, and Women's Work (2005-2006), and an oral history-based student project entitled Statesboro at the Crossroads: Highway to Hell or Twelve-Step Mecca? (2007). Her most recent work was an adaptation of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for the university puppet theatre (2007). KENNERLY is the facilitator and aesthetic director of the Erk Russell Oral History and Performance Project, scheduled to be staged in the fall of 2008. She is also working on her book Dancing with the Dead: Locating Roadside Shrines as Points of Departure, Return, and Resistance.
How to Cite
Kennerly, R. M. (2008). Locating the Gap between Grace and Terror: Performative Research and Spectral Images of (and on) the Road. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-9.2.396