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American Ethnologist

performance and the cultural construction of reality

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Abstract

Recent discussions of the efficacy of ritual performances emphasize that the transformation of the self and the social state of the participants is closely bound to changes in symbolic meaning within the ritual. I examine the limitations of this meaning-centered approach by showing that in the Kaluli curing séances, the force of the transformation comes across on the nondiscursive dramaturgical and rhetorical levels of performance. The spirit medium and audience together co-create a new reality that recontextualizes particular problematical social circumstances and enables action to be taken in regard to them. [Papua New Guinea, ritual, spirit mediums, Kaluli people, performance]

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