Shattering the Singular: Generating on-the-ground knowledge through aesthetic and theatric techniques
Boer, R. de
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This thesis approaches and interrogates aesthetic and theatric techniques as a possible opportunity to generate on-the-ground knowledge—both in general and as part of the (re-)consideration of anthropological methods. The focus lies on the “Theatre of the Oppressed” (“TO”), a 'toolbox' of techniques which are rooted in a fertile soil of ethics, philosophy and theory—articulated by Augusto Boal, the founding father of TO. Theatre incorporates sounds, images, and emotions; it perpetuates beyond the boundaries of verbal language. The argumentation set out in this thesis is based on three months of ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles, between February and May of 2012. The bulk of this thesis is inspired by the stories and experiences of four collaborators: Barbara-June Dodge, Brent Blair, Mady Schutzman and Hector Aristizábal. By taking a narrative approach—including the notion that knowledge is storied, rather than classificatory—theatre opens up to the opportunity to generate knowledge. I conceptualise TO-workshops as the intertwinement of narratives. It is through and in this intertwinement that knowledge is produced. This process occurs by engaging with narratives in TO-workshops. Narratives are inherently complex and fragmented. However, often there seems to be a tendency to 'cover up' the complexity and fragmentation of narratives. The narratives are posed as definitive, as if they are either 'true' or 'false'; they become “singular narratives”. This, in turn, produces a view of the world, and of those being living in and on the world, as tangible and 'graspable' by (scientific) concepts. I will approach TO-workshops from three distinct perspectives. I will elaborate on three notions to interrogate and question singular narratives: Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of “polyphony”; Hans-Georg Gadamer's notion of “the fusion of horizons”; and Paul Feyerabend’s notions of “guided” against “open exchanges”. In these processes the complexity, contradictions, incoherency and fragmentation of narratives are acknowledged and critically interrogated. Thus, a singular narrative can be pried open.