Downloadable ContentDownload PDF
Transculturating cultural memory in Native American performance
Theatre practitioner and scholar, Eugenio Barba has spent much of his professional life questioning what is known and asking what is unknown. His instinct to look beyond his cultural norms propelled him and his students to obtain knowledge of other methods and practices; discoveries that would lead to the term, theatre anthropology. Utilizing aspects of Barba's theatre anthropology to examine transculturation of cultural memory in Native American performance, discovery of how performance has changed and evolved among Navajo Indians is analyzed. Barba's research provides a framework that enables analysis of Native American performance, and the effect of transculturation - melding methods and practices not familiar to Native culture. In his book, The Paper Canoe, Barba explains, "Historical understanding of theatre and dance is often blocked or rendered superficial because of neglect of the logic of the creative process, because of misunderstandings of the performer's empirical way of thinking, and because of an inability to overcome the confines established for the spectator" (11). This thesis observes and analyzes performance of cultural memory of primarily Navajo performers. This thesis charts the changing methods and techniques that that have enabled more Navajo individuals to perform their stories, and have enabled spectators - Native and non-Native - to experience the stories, dances, songs, crafts and arts by artists who are expressing their unique selves. In the first chapter, the ritual ceremony, Male Shooting Way, is analyzed; in the second chapter, poet Laura Tohe's writings and performances are analyzed; in the third chapter, inter-tribal events in the Southwest are researched and analyzed through attendance and participation. The journey of this thesis begins with a holy ceremony, expands slightly to an artist's work inside and outside her Native community and concludes with an analysis of Native performance taken to a larger and commercialized scale; a journey from the micro to the macro: starting small and intimate, evolving to connect with others and concluding with a look at today's multi-cultural performance practices that draw spectators and performers of diverse backgrounds and experiences.