2017 | 19 | 1 | 25-58
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The Theology of Performance and the Vedic Rituals Rethinking Theatricality and Performativity as a Discourse

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While the debate on the relationship between ritual and theatre goes back decades, the most recent speculation can be fully understood in the framework of the mutual influences between the social sciences and performance studies. In retrospect, the spreading of structuralism to anthropology, sociology, and history (among other fields) and the absorption of theory-oriented terms in theatre studies’ terminology have facilitated a linguistic and conceptual ambiguity (or simply a confusion). Such ambiguity arises especially from the attempt to outline the borders between the religious and the aesthetic. In this paper, I will focus on the crucial role of conventional terms such as ‘performance’ and ‘performative’, the increased use of which in different fields has given rise to new dichotomies, such as performativity vs theatricality, self vs role. I will discuss some theoretical issues that allow us to define a ritual text as ‘religious’ instead of ‘theatrical’, focusing on the performative effect of recitation, more specifically on the Vedic texts on ritual prescriptions and their aim to display the officiants’ skills and authoritativeness.
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