The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (John Hope Franklin Center Book) Review
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She writes, "I am not suggesting that we merely extend our analytic practice to other `Non-Western' areas. Rather, what I propose here is a real engagement between two fields that helps us rethink both." By working from the points of disconnection between area and performance studies Taylor creates a new framework for approaching performance as embodied social practice.
Shifting focus to "the live" requires new methodologies and Taylor creates exciting new theoretical tools to further this discussion. Since, in her view, much performance writing betrays the "embodiedness" it seeks to describe; Taylor coins terms that do not derive from literary sources. The repertoire of her title is her term for a "non-archival system of transfer" that can capture the ephemeral trace of performance. By providing her reader with a kind of archive of affect, Taylor makes the body central. She argues that the repertoire "allows for an alternative perspective on historical processes...by following traditions of embodied practice" instead of literary rhetoric. As an alternative to "narrative" she offers scenario, a term with a theatrical genealogy, meaning an open-ended " sketch or outline" as a way to connote colonial encounters. For example, Taylor wittily names the scenario in which we are encouraged to "overlook the displacement and disappearance of native peoples" at the root of the popular show Survivor, "Fantasy Island." Taylor expands on this theme in her second chapter, Scenarios of Discovery: Reflections on Performance and Ethnography. She writes, "Using scenario as a paradigm for understanding social structures and behaviors might allow us to draw from the repertoire as well as the archive."
Using these terms as "portable frameworks" and moving in and out of first person experience, Taylor explores a range of hemispheric performances. Chapters on the Mexican mestizaje, campy Latino American psychic Walter Mercado, and the ways that minority populations mourned Princess Diana, explore the hybrid spaces between perception and embodied culture. Taylor revisits the Argentinean "Dirty War"
(the topic of her book Disappearing Acts) in her chapter on H.I.J.O.S. -the children of the disappeared- and the "DNA of performance" that links them with their absent parents. Chapters on Brazilian performance artist Denise Stoklos, witnessing 9/11 and a 1998 Central Park performance of Rumba musicians interrupted by the NYPD, investigate the complex relations between hegemonic power and the anarchic spirit of live performance against a background of historic violence.
This book is a path-making piece of scholarship that recognizes performance as a valid focus of analysis. It creates a dialogue between area and performance studies that values the unique features of both. The questions Diana Taylor asks in Archive and the Repertoire extend beyond this work and will shape a terrain of inquiry in performance studies for years to come.The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (John Hope Franklin Center Book) OverviewIn The Archive and the Repertoire preeminent performance studies scholar Diana Taylor provides a new understanding of the vital role of performance in the Americas. From plays to official events to grassroots protests, performance, she argues, must be taken seriously as a means of storing and transmitting knowledge. Taylor reveals how the repertoire of embodied memory—conveyed in gestures, the spoken word, movement, dance, song, and other performances—offers alternative perspectives to those derived from the written archive and is particularly useful to a reconsideration of historical processes of transnational contact. The Archive and the Repertoire invites a remapping of the Americas based on traditions of embodied practice.Examining various genres of performance including demonstrations by the children of the disappeared in Argentina, the Peruvian theatre group Yuyachkani, and televised astrological readings by Univision personality Walter Mercado, Taylor explores how the archive and the repertoire work together to make political claims, transmit traumatic memory, and forge a new sense of cultural identity. Through her consideration of performances such as Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña's show Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit . . . , Taylor illuminates how scenarios of discovery and conquest haunt the Americas, trapping even those who attempt to dismantle them. Meditating on events like those of September 11, 2001 and media representations of them, she examines both the crucial role of performance in contemporary culture and her own role as witness to and participant in hemispheric dramas. The Archive and the Repertoire is a compelling demonstration of the many ways that the study of performance enables a deeper understanding of the past and present, of ourselves and others.
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