Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Teaching
Secondary Theme: Resilience
This panel responds to the conference call to consider “change in the anthropological imagination” by reminding us that culture is humanity’s primary tool for adapting to change, and that ritual is a major component of the human capacity for cultural resilience. The panelists explore pedagogical methods for imparting to students a deeper understanding of the transformational potential of ritual through experiential exercises in the classroom. Over three decades ago Victor and Edie Turner, Richard Schechner, and others introduced a major transformation in anthropological pedagogy and in the anthropological imagination that should be productively reimagined in today’s complex world. The panelists describe and theorize their performance of rituals or other forms of ethnographic material in the classroom as a form of “embodied learning” that transforms more traditional anthropological perspectives of society and culture into special kinds of experienced realities responsive to contemporary social and cultural pressures. Building on the legacy of anthropological performance theory, they argue that these exercises in “engaged learning” can be tremendously successful as a way to encourage students to enhance their understandings of themselves and of the very real people who are written about in ethnographic texts, enabling students to learn in experiential and imaginative ways that move beyond more traditional forms of pedagogy. The panelists describe their experiences in using various kinds of ethnographic performances involving the manipulation of symbols, myths, and ritual forms in the context of today’s global environment, toward the goal of empowering students to celebrate the rich diversity of humanity and to shape their individual forms of resistance to oppressive and unfair power structures as they explore their own place in a hegemonic world system.