Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas
by Diana Taylor
Durham: Duke UP, 2003
Acts of Transfer
[Figure 1. "PerFORwhat Studies? Cartoon by Diana Raznovich]
From June 14-23, 2001 the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics
convened artists, activists, and scholars from the Americas for its Second Annual
'Encuentro' (encounter) to share the ways our work uses performance to intervene
in the political scenarios we care about. Everyone understood the 'politics,'
but 'performance' was more difficult. For some artists, 'performance' (as it
is called in Latin America) referred to performance art. Others played with
the term. Jesusa Rodriguez, Mexico's most outrageous and powerful cabaret/performance
artist, referred to the three hundred participants as 'performenzos' (menzos
means idiots). "Performnuts" might be the best translation, and most
of her spectators would agree you have to be crazy to do what she does, confronting
the Mexican State and the Catholic Church head-on. Tito Vasconcelos, one of
the first out gay performers from the early 80s in Mexico came onstage as Marta
Sahagun, then lover, now wife, of Mexico's president, Vicente Fox. In her white
suit and matching pumps, she welcomed the audience to the conference of 'perfumance.'
Smiling, she admitted, she didn't understand what it was about, and acknowledged
that nobody gave a damn about what we did, but she welcomed us to do it anyway.
PerFORwhat? the confused woman in Diana Raznovich's cartoon asks? The jokes
and puns, while good humored, revealed both an anxiety of definition and the
promise of a new arena for further interventions.
This study, like the Hemispheric Institute, proposes that 'performance studies' can contribute to our understanding of Latin American-and Hemispheric-performance traditions by re-thinking 19th century disciplinary and national boundaries and by focusing on embodied behaviors. Conversely, the debates dating back to the 16th century about the nature and function of performance practices in the Americas can expand the theoretical scope of a post-discipline-come-lately that has, due to its context, focused more on the future and ends of performance than on its historical practice. Finally, it seems urgent to focus on the specific characteristics of performance in a cultural environment in which corporations promote "world" music and international organizations (such as UNESCO) and funding organizations make decisions about "world" cultural rights and "intangible heritage."
Performances function as vital acts of transfer , transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity through reiterated, or what Richard Schechner has called "twice-behaved behavior." "Performance," on one level, constitutes the object of analysis in performance studies-i.e., the many practices and events-dance, theatre, ritual, political rallies, funerals-that involve theatrical, rehearsed, or conventional/event-appropriate behaviors. These practices are usually bracketed from those around them to constitute discrete objects of analysis. Sometimes, that framing is part of the event itself-- a particular dance or a rally has a beginning and an end. It does not run continuously or seamlessly into other forms of cultural expression. To say something is a performance amounts to an ontological affirmation, though a thoroughly localized one. What one society might consider a performance might be a non-event elsewhere.
On another level, 'performance' also constitutes the methodological lens that enables scholars to analyze events as performance. Civic obedience, resistance, citizenship, gender, ethnic, and sexual identity, for example, are rehearsed and performed daily in the public sphere. To understand these as performance suggests that performance also functions as an epistemology. Embodied practice, along with and bound up with other cultural discourses, offers a way of knowing. The bracketing for these performances comes from outside, from the analytical lens that constitutes them as objects. Performance and aesthetics of everyday life vary from community to community, reflecting cultural and historical specificity as much in the enactment as in the viewing/reception. They may even vary from instance to instance, a variation at the heart of debates about the 'mediatized' and the 'live.' (While reception changes in both the 'live' and the media performance, only in the 'live' does the act itself change.) Performances travel, challenging and influencing other performances. They are, in a sense, always in situ: intelligible in the framework of the immediate environment and issues surrounding them. The is/as underlines the understanding of performance as simultaneously 'real' and 'constructed,' as practices that bring together what have historically been kept separate as discrete, supposedly free-standing, ontological and epistemological discourses.
The many uses of the word performance point to the complex, seemingly contradictory, and at times mutually sustaining or complicate layers of referentiality. Victor Turner bases his understanding on the French etymological root, parfournir, to "furnish forth," "'to complete' or 'carry out thoroughly.'" From French, the term moved into English as performance in the 1500s, and since the 16th and 17th centuries has been used much as it is today. For Turner, writing in the 1960s and 1970s, performances revealed culture's deepest, truest, and most individual character. Guided by a belief in their universality and relative transparency, he claimed that populations could grow to understand each other through their performances. For others, of course, performance means just the opposite: the constructedness of performance signals its artificiality--it is 'put on,' antithetical to the 'real' and 'true.' While in some cases, the emphasis on the constructedness of performance reveals an anti-theatrical prejudice, in more complex readings the constructed is recognized as coterminous with the 'real.' While a dance, a ritual, or a manifestation requires bracketing or framing that differentiate it from other social practices surrounding it, this does not imply that the performance is not 'real' or 'true.' On the contrary, the idea that performance distills a 'truer' truth than life itself runs from Aristotle, through Shakespeare and Calderon de la Barca, through Artaud and Grotowski and into the present. People in business fields seem to use the term more than anyone else though usually to mean that a person, or more often a thing, acts up to one's potential. Supervisors evaluate workers' efficacy on the job, their 'performance,' just as cars and computers and the markets supposedly vie to outperform their rivals. Perform or Else, Jon McKenzie's title, aptly captures the imperative to reach required business (and cultural) standards. Political consultants understand that performance-as-style rather than as carrying-through or accomplishment often determines political outcome. Science too has begun exploration into reiterated human behavior and expressive culture through "memes": "Memes are stories, songs, habits, skills, inventions, and ways of doing things that we copy from person to person by imitation (65)" -in short, the reiterative acts that I have been calling performance-though clearly performance does not necessarily involve mimetic behaviors.
In performance studies, too, notions about the role and function of performance vary widely. One example of the spectrum of understanding, to cite just one debate, has to do with performance's staying power. Coming from a Lacanian position, Peggy Phelan delimits the 'life' of performance to the present: "Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representation [c] Performance's being, like the ontology of subjectivity proposed here, becomes itself through disappearance" (146). Joseph Roach, on the other hand, extends the understanding of performance by making it coterminous with memory and history. As such, it participates in the transfer and continuity of knowledge: "Performance genealogies draw on the idea of expressive movements as mnemonic reserves, including patterned movements made and remembered by bodies, residual movements retained implicitly in images or words (or in the silences between them), and imaginary movements dreamed in minds not prior to language but constitutive of it" (26).
Scholars coming from philosophy and rhetoric (such as J.L. Austin, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler) have coined terms such as 'performative' and 'performativity.' A performative, for Austin, refers to cases in which "the issuing of the utterance is the performing of an action" (6). In some cases, the reiteration and bracketing I associated with performance earlier is clear: it is within the conventional framework of a marriage ceremony that the words "I do" carry legal weight. Others have continued to develop Austin's notion of the performative in many diverse ways. Derrida, for example, goes further in underling the importance of the citationality and iterability in the "event of speech", questioning if "a performative statement [could] succeed if its formulation did not repeat a 'coded' or iterable statement." However, the framing that sustains Judith Butler's use of performativity -- the process of socialization whereby gender and sexuality identities (for example) are produced through regulating and citational practices -- is harder to identify because normalization has rendered it invisible. While in Austin, performative points to language that acts, in Butler it goes in the opposite direction, subsuming subjectivity and cultural agency into normative discursive practice. In this trajectory, the performative becomes less a quality (or adjective) of 'performance' than of discourse. While it may be too late to reclaim performative for the non-discursive realm of performance, I suggest that we borrow a word from the contemporary Spanish usage of performance-performatico or performatic in English-to denote the adjectival form of the non-discursive realm of performance. Why is this important? Because it is vital to signal the performatic and visual fields as separate from, though always embroiled with, the discursive one so privileged by Western logocentricism. The fact that we don't have a word to signal that performatic space is a product of that same logocentricism, rather than a confirmation that there's no there there.
Thus one of the problems in using performance, and its misleading cognates performative and performativity, comes from the extraordinarily broad range of behaviors it covers-from the discrete dance to conventional cultural behavior. However, this multi-layeredness indicates the deep interconnections of all these systems of intelligibility and the productive frictions among them. As the different uses of the term/concept--scholarly, political, scientific, and business-related--rarely engage each other directly, 'performance' also has a history of untranslateability. Ironically, the word itself has been locked into the disciplinary and geographic boxes it defies, denied the universality and transparency that some claim it promises its objects of analysis. These many points of untranslateability of course, are what make the term and the practices theoretically enabling and culturally revealing. While performances may not, as Turner had hoped, give us access and insight into another culture, they certainly tell us a great deal about our desire for efficacy, accomplishment, access, not to mention the politics of our interpretations.
Part of this undefinability characterizes performance studies as a field. When it emerged in the 1970s, a product of the social and disciplinary upheavals of the late 1960s that rocked academe, it sought to bridge the disciplinary divide between anthropology and theatre by looking at social dramas, liminality, and enactment as a way out of structuralist notions of normativity. Performance studies, which as I indicated above is certainly no one thing, clearly grew out of these disciplines even as it rejected their boundaries. In doing so, it inherited some of the assumptions and methodological blind spots of anthropology and theatre studies even as it attempted to transcend their ideological formation. However, it is equally important to keep in mind that anthropology and theatre studies were (and are) comprised of various different, often conflicted, streams. Here, then, I can only offer a few quick examples of how some of the disciplinary preoccupations and methodological limitations get transferred in thinking about performance.
From the anthropology of the 1970s, performance studies inherited its radical break with notions of normative behavior promulgated by sociologist Emile Durkheim, who argued that the social condition of humans (rather than individual agency) accounts for behaviors and beliefs. Those who disagreed with this structuralist position argued that culture was not a reified given but an arena of social dispute in which social actors came together to struggle for survival. From the wing commonly referred to as the "dramaturgical," anthropologists such as Turner, Milton Singer, Erving Goffman, and Clifford Geertz began to write of individuals as agents in their own dramas. Norms, they argued, are contested, not merely applied. Analyzing enactment became crucial in establishing claims to cultural agency-how do we recognize elements such as choice, timing, and self-presentation except through the ways in which individuals and groups perform them? The dramaturgical model also highlighted aesthetic and ludic components of social events as well as the in-betweenness of liminality and symbolic reversal.
Part of the linguistic stream, anthropologists such as and Dell Hymes, Richard Bauman, Charles Briggs, Gregory Bateson, and Michele Rosaldo were influenced by thinkers such as J. L. Austin, John Searle, and Ferdinand de Saussure who focused on the performative function of communication-parole, in Saussure's term. Again, as with the dramaturgical model, the linguistic one emphasized the cultural agency at work in the use of language-how, to play on Austin's title, did people do things with words? Like the dramaturgical model, this one too stressed the creativity at play in the use of language, as speakers and their audiences worked together to produce successful verbal performances. The linguistic stream was also invested in recognizing the creativity in the everyday life of other people, ways of using language that were resourceful, specific, and 'authentic.'
While performance scholars readily adopted the project of taking embodied enactments seriously as a way of understanding how people manage their lives, they also absorbed the Western positioning of anthropology that continued to wrestle with its colonial heritage. The us studying and writing about them was, of course, a part of a colonialist project that anthropology had come out of, though the scholars working in the 1970s were trying to break away from the paradigm that fetishized the local, denied agency to the peoples they studied, and excluded them from the circulation of knowledge created about them. Yet communication, for the most part, continued to be uni-directional. 'They' did not have access to 'our' writing. This one-way writing practice revealed the ongoing ambivalence as to whether or not they occupied a different world-in space and time, whether or not we are interrelated and coeval. The uni-directionality of meaning-making and communication also stemmed from and reflected the centuries-old privileging of written over embodied knowledge. Moreover, little thought was given to the many ways in which contact with the "non-Western" had, for centuries, shaped the very notion of "Western" identity. Some anthropologists and theatre scholars were heavily influenced by the modernist impulse to seek the authentic, 'primitive,' and somehow purer expression of the human condition in non-Western societies. Attempts in the literature of the 1970s to illustrate that these 'others' were in fact fully human, with performance practices as meaningful as 'our' own, betrays the anxiety produced by colonialism about the status of non-Western subjects.
In spite of the decolonizing sentiments of many anthropologists in the 1970s, the explanatory frameworks they used were decidedly Western. To return to Turner, the most direct influence on performance studies due to his productive association with Richard Schechner, it is clear that while the concept of social drama has been foundational to performance studies, the universalist claims he makes for its ubiquity strain against the rather narrow filter he has for understanding it: Aristotelian drama. "No one," Turner asserts, "could fail to note the analogy, indeed the homology, between those sequences of supposedly 'spontaneous' events which make fully evident the tensions existing in those villages, and the characteristic 'processual form' of Western drama, from Aristotle onwards, or Western epic and saga, albeit on a limited or miniature scale" (9). No one, that is, except for those who participated in the events without the slightest notion of these paradigms. Pre-empting a perceived accusation of eurocentricism, Turner writesC "[t]he fact that a social drama [c] closely corresponds to Aristotle's description of tragedy in the Poetics, in that it is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitudec having a beginning, a middle, and an end,' is not, I repeat, because I have tried inappropriately to impose an 'etic' Western model of stage action upon the conduct of an African village society, but because there is an interdependent, perhaps dialectic, relationship between social dramas and genres of cultural performance in all societies" (72). Again, Turner's theories about events structured with a recognizable beginning, middle, and end may have less to do with the "supposedly 'spontaneous'" events than with his analytical lens. The lens, for him as for everyone else, reveals his (our) desires and interests. While he may be correct in noting the interdependency of social and cultural performances within a specific society, it might be important to question whether and how this interdependency would work cross-culturally. Moreover, his position as an 'objective' observer looking down on the object of analysis sets up the unequal, and distorting, perspective that results in the double gesture that characterizes much of the writing about performance practices in contexts other than our own. First, the observer claims to recognize what is happening in the performance of/by the 'other.' Somehow or other, this event is interpretable by means of a pre-existing Western paradigm. Secondly, the recognition is followed by a subtle (or not so subtle) put-down-this performance proves a "miniature" or diminished version of the 'original.'
From theatre studies, the "maternal" partner (according to Turner, pg. 9), performance studies inherits another form of radicalism-its proclivity towards the avant-garde that values originality, the transgressive and, again, the 'authentic.' This is a different but complementary operation: the non-Western is the raw material to be re-worked, and made 'original' in the West. The presumption of course is that performance-now understood as drawing heavily from the visual arts and non-conventional theatrical representations, happenings, installations, body art, and performance art-- is an aesthetic practice with its roots either in surrealism, dadaism, or earlier performance traditions such as cabaret, the living newspaper, and rituals of healing and possession. The avant-garde's emphasis on originality, ephemerality, and new-ness hides multiple rich and long traditions of performance practice. In 1969, for example, Michael Kirby, a founding member of the soon-to-be-created Department of Performance Studies at NYU, asserted that "environmental theatre is a recent development" (265) associated with the avant-garde, even though he admits examples from the Greek theatre onwards that could well be labeled by the same term. It's the "specific aesthetic element" that, for Kirby, differentiates it from earlier forms. His emphasis on aesthetics, however, does not in fact set recent examples apart from earlier ones. Friar Motolinia, one of the first 12 Franciscans to reach the Americas in the 16th century, describes a Corpus Christi celebration in 1538 during which native participants from Tlaxcala created elaborate outdoor platforms "all of gold and feather work" as well as entire mountains and forests populated with both artificial and live animals which were "a marvellous thing to see" and through which spectator/participants walked to gain a "natural" effect. Claims such as the one put forth by Kirby in the late 1960s epitomize the period's self-conscious obsession with the new, as it forgot or ignored what was already there. These kinds of assertions prompted accusations that the nascent field of performance studies was a-historical if not anti-historical.
There are many more examples of similar forgettings accompanied by new 'discoveries' that once again re-stage the elisions of ties between Western and non-Western practices--Artaud inspired by the Tarahumara, Brecht's reliance on non-Western forms as a basis for his revolutionary aesthetics, Grotowski's interest in the Huichol, to name just the most obvious. Few theorists and practitioners--with notable exceptions-- seriously think about the mutual construction of the Western/ non-Western in the Americas. That would require that scholars learn the languages of the peoples with whom they seek to interact and treat them as colleagues rather than as informants or objects of analysis. This, in turn, would mean that these new colleagues would remain in the loop of all the projects that involved them-from production, to distribution, to analysis. It would also entail a methodological shift-a re-thinking about what counts as expertise or as valid source. It would demand the recognition of the permanent recycling of cultural materials and processes between the Western and non-Western. This reciprocal contact has been most commonly theorized in Latin America as transculturation. Transculturation denotes the transformative process undergone by all societies as they come in contact with and acquire foreign cultural material, whether willingly or unwillingly (see Chapter 3). Tranculturation has been going on forever. But the cross-cultural discussions remain as strained as ever.
The nervousness surrounding the non-Western continues to haunt much of the writing on performance as an aesthetic practice. One example: Patrice Pavis, in his introductory blurb to the section "Historical Contexts" in The Intercultural Performance Reader, puts forward a defensive and somewhat paternalistic sounding project: "We propose to start by bringing together documents and declarations of intent, without allowing ourselves to be intimidated by the hypocrites and bigots of 'political correctness.' In an area like this, we need to be both patient and calm. We are still in a phase of observing and surveying cultural practices, and our only ambition is to provide readers with a number of statements from an infinitely possible range, without the imposition of a global or universal theory to analyse these examples definitively." Just thinking about how to deal with non-Western practices makes Pavis jittery. Claims of inclusion (the 'infinitely possible range') no longer mask the practice of exclusion: not a single essay on Latin American performance, for example. Beleaguered Western critics must maintain the father-knows-best stance of patience and calm. Two or three decades after Turner and Kirby, many scholars have lost the easy assumptions regarding decipherability and new-ness. Pavis understands that 'Western' theorists in the 1990s need to renounce claims of global or universalizing theory, though his emphasis on seemingly disinterested observation and survey reinscribe the dominance of the critical position. The statements and 'historical' documents--all written by decidedly 'first-world' theorists-set the stage: Ericka Fischer-Lichte, Richard Schechner, and Josette Feral. In a separate section, "Intercultural Performance from Another Point of View," Pavis includes "non-Western" perspectives, though notes that most of those writing "either live, or have lived and worked, in the United States" (147). Still, they are "foreign" and "Other" and their views "do differ radically from those of the Euro-American interculturalists, being less self-assured" (147).
The double critical move highlights an area of concern (the 'non-Western') and negates it in the same move. It distances non-Western cultural production as radically other, and then attempts to encompass it within existing critical systems as diminished or disruptive elements. Performance, as Roach points out, is as much about forgetting as about remembering. The 'West' has forgotten about the many parts of the world that elude its explanatory grasp. Yet, it remembers the need to cement the centrality of its position as the 'West' by creating and freezing the non-West as always 'other,' 'foreign,' and unknowable. Domination by culture, by 'definition,' by claims to originality and authenticity, have functioned in tandem with military and economic supremacy.
Though a-historical in some of its practice, there is nothing inherently a-historical or 'Western' about performance studies. Our methodologies can and should be revised constantly through engagement with other interlocutors as well as other regional, political, and linguistic realities both within and beyond our national boundaries. This does not mean extending our existing paradigms to include 'other' forms of cultural production. Not does it justify limiting our range of interlocutors to those whose backgrounds and language skills resemble our own. What I am proposing is an active engagement and dialogue (however complicated) with those whom we chose to work with. Performance has existed as long as people have existed, even though the field of study in its current form is relatively recent. While performance studies emerged on the academic scene with inherited baggage, it has long tried, and often succeeded, in overcoming some of those limitations. The eurocentricism and aestheticism of some theatre studies, for example, meet up against anthropology's traditional focus on non-Western cultural practices as meaning-making systems. The belief by anthropologists such as Geertz that "doing ethnography is like trying to read [c] a manuscript-foreign, faded, full of ellipsesc" and that culture is an "acted document" (1973, 10), runs into theatre studies' insistence on everyone's active participation and reaction. We are all in the picture, all social actors in our overlapping, coterminous, contentious dramas. Even Brechtian distanciation relies on notions that the spectators are keenly bound up with events happening onstage, and they are often called on to intervene and change the course of the action.
In Latin America, where the term finds no satisfactory equivalent in either Spanish or Portuguese, 'performance' has commonly referred to 'performance art.' Translated simply but nonetheless ambiguously as 'el performance' or 'la performance,' a linguistic cross-dressing that invites English speakers to think about the sex/gender of 'performance,' the word is beginning to be used more broadly to talk about social dramas and embodied practices. People quite commonly refer now to 'lo performatico' as that which is related to performance in the broadest sense. In spite of charges that 'performance' is an Anglo word, and that there is no way of making it sound comfortable in either Spanish or Portuguese, scholars and practitioners are beginning to appreciate the multivocal and strategic qualities of the term. While the word may be foreign and untranslatable, the debates, decrees, and strategies arising from the many traditions of embodied practice and corporeal knowledge are deeply rooted and embattled in the Americas. Yet, the language referring to those corporeal knowledges maintain a firm link to theatrical traditions. 'Performance' includes, but is not reducible to, any of the following terms usually used to replace it: teatralidad, espectaculo, accion, representacion.
Teatralidad and espectaculo, like theatricality and spectacle in English, capture the constructed, all encompassing sense of performance. The many ways in which social life and human behavior can be viewed as performance come across in these terms, though with a particular valence. Theatricality, for me, sustains a scenario, a paradigmatic set-up that relies on supposedly 'live' participants, structured around a schematic plot, with an intended (though adaptable) 'end.' One could say that all the 16th century writing on discovery and conquest restages what Michel de Certeau calls the "inaugural scene: after a moment of stupor, on this threshold dotted with colonnades of trees, the conqueror will write the body of the other and trace there his own history" (1988, xxv). Theatricality makes that scenario alive and compelling. In other words, scenarios exist as culturally specific imaginaries-sets of possibilities, ways of conceiving conflict, crisis, or resolution-activated with more or less theatricality. Unlike 'trope,' which is a figure of speech, theatricality does not rely on language to transmit a set pattern of behavior or action. In "Scenarios of Discovery" (Ch. 2), I suggest that the colonial 'encounter' is a theatrical scenario structured in a predictable, formulaic, hence repeatable fashion. Theatricality (like theatre) flaunts its artifice, its constructedness. No matter who restages the colonial encounter from the West's perspective-the novelist, the playwright, the discoverer, or the government official-it stars the same white male protagonist-subject and the same brown "found" object. Theatricality strives for efficaciousness, not authenticity. It connotes a conscious, controlled and, thus, always political dimension that 'performance' need not imply. It differs from 'spectacle' in that theatricality highlights the mechanics of spectacle. Spectacle, I agree with Guy Debord, is not an image but a series of social relations mediated by images. Thus, as I write elsewhere, it "ties individuals into an economy of looks and looking" (1997: 119) that can appear more 'invisibly' normalizing, that is, less 'theatrical.' Both of these terms, however, are nouns with no verb--thus they do not allow for individual cultural agency in the way that 'perform' does. Much is lost, it seems to me, when we give up the potential for direct and active intervention by adopting words such a 'teatralidad' or 'espectaculo' to replace performance.
Words such as 'accion' and 'representacion' allow for individual action and intervention. 'Accion' could be defined as an 'act,' an avant-garde 'happening,' a 'rally' or political 'intervention' such as the street theatre protests staged by the Peruvian theatre collective, Yuyachkani (Ch. 7) or the 'escraches' or acts of public shaming carried out against torturers by H.I.J.O.S., the human rights organization comprised of children of the disappeared in Argentina (see "You Are Here," Ch. 6). Thus 'accion' brings together both the aesthetic and political dimensions of 'perform.' But the economic and social mandates pressuring individuals to perform in certain normative ways fall out--the way we perform our gender or ethnicity and so on. 'Accion' seems more directed and intentional, and thus less socially and politically embroiled than 'perform' which evokes both the prohibition and the potential for transgression. We may, for example, be performing multiple socially constructed roles at once, even while engaged in one clearly defined anti-military 'accion.' Representation, even with its verb 'to represent,' conjures up notions of mimesis, of a break between the 'real' and its 'representation,' that 'performance' and 'perform' have so productively complicated. While these terms have been proposed instead of the foreign sounding 'performance,' they too derive from Western languages, cultural histories, and ideologies.
Why then not use a term from one of the non-European languages, such as Nahuatl, Maya, Quechua, Aymara or any of the hundreds of indigenous languages still spoken in the Americas? Olin, meaning 'movement' in Nahuatl, seems a possible candidate. Olin is the motor behind everything that happens in life--the repeated movement of the sun, stars, earth, and elements. Olin, furthermore, is a month in the Mexica calendar and, thus, enables temporal and historical specificity. And Olin also manifests her/himself as a deity who intervenes in social matters. The term simultaneously captures the broad, all-encompassing nature of 'performance' as reiterative process and carrying-through as well as its potential for historical specificity and individual cultural agency. Or maybe adopt areito, the term for song-dance? Areitos, described by the conquerors in the Caribbean of the 16th century, constituted a collective act involving singing, dancing, celebration, and worship that claimed aesthetic as well as socio-political and religious legitimacy. This term is attractive because it blurs all Aristotelian notions of discretely developed 'genres,' publics, and ends. It clearly reflects the assumption that cultural manifestations exceed compartmentalization either by genre (song-dance), by participant/actors, or by intended effect (religious, socio-political, aesthetic) that ground Western cultural thought. It calls into question our taxonomies, even as it points to new interpretive possibilities.
So why not? In this case, I believe, replacing a word with a recognizable, albeit problematic, history--such as performance-- with another, developed in a different context and to signal a profoundly different world view, would only be an act of wishful thinking, an aspiration to forgetting our shared history of power relations and cultural domination that would not disappear even if we changed our language. 'Performance,' as a theoretical term rather than as an object or a practice, is a newcomer to the field. While it emerges in the United States at a time of disciplinary shifts to engage objects of analysis that previously exceeded academic boundaries (i.e., 'the aesthetics of everyday life'), it is not, like 'theatre,' weighed down by centuries of colonial evangelical or normalizing activity. Its very undefinability and complexity I find reassuring. 'Performance' carries the possibility of challenge, even self-challenge, within it. As a term simultaneously connoting a process, a praxis, an episteme, a mode of transmission, an accomplishment, and a means of intervening in the world, it far exceeds the possibilities of these other words offered in its place. Moreover, the problem of untranslateability, as I see it, is actually a positive one, a necessary stumbling block that reminds us that 'we'--whether in our various disciplines, or languages, or geographic locations throughout the Americas-- do not simply or unproblematically understand each other. I would propose that we proceed from that premise--that we do not understand each-- and recognize that each effort in that direction needs to work against notions of easy access, decipherability, and translateability. This stumbling block stymies not only Spanish and Portuguese speakers faced with a foreign word, but English speakers who thought they knew what 'performance' meant.
II The Archive and the Repertoire
[Figure 2. Drawing by Alberto Beltran]
My particular investment in performance studies derives less from what it is than what it allows us to do. By taking 'performance' seriously as a system of learning, storing, and transmitting knowledge, performance studies allows us to expand what we understand by 'knowledge.' This move, for starters, might prepare us to challenge the preponderance of writing in Western epistemologies. As I will suggest in this study, writing has paradoxically come to stand for embodiment. When the friars arrived in the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries, as I will go on to explore, they claimed that the indigenous peoples' past-and the "lives they lived"-had 'disappeared' because they had no writing. Now, on the brink of a digital revolution that threatens to displace writing, the body again seems poised to 'disappear' in a virtual space that eludes embodiment. While embodied expression has and will probably continue to participate in the transmission of social knowledge, memory, and identity pre- and post-writing, the threat is that these can be conceived only through writing. In this way, writing almost comes to stand for life itself.
By shifting the focus from written to embodied culture, from the discursive to the performatic, we need to shift our methodologies. Instead of focusing on patterns of cultural expression in terms of texts and narratives, we might think about them as 'scenarios' that do not reduce gestures and embodied practices to narrative description. This shift necessarily alters what academic disciplines regard as appropriate canons, and might extend the traditional disciplinary boundaries to include practices previously outside their purview.
The concept of performance, as an embodied praxis and episteme, for example, would prove vital in redefining Latin American studies because it de-centers the historic role of writing introduced by the conquest. As Angel Rama notes in The Lettered City, "the exclusive place of writing in Latin American societies made it so revered as to take on a aura of sacredness [c] Written documents seemed not to spring from social life but rather be imposed upon it and to force it into a mold not at all made to measure."
While the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas practiced writing before the conquest-either in pictogram form, hieroglyphs, or knotting systems-it never replaced the performed utterance. Writing, though highly valued, was primarily a prompt to performance, a mnemonic aid. While more precise information could be stored through writing, and it required specialized skills, it depended on embodied culture for transmission. As in medieval Europe, writing was a privileged form practiced by only the specialized few. Through in tlilli in tlapalli ('the red and black ink' as the Nahuas called wisdom associated with writing), Mesoamericans stored their understanding of planetary movement, time, and the calendar. Codices transmitted historical accounts, important dates, regional affairs, cosmic phenomena, and other kinds of knowledge. Writing was censored, and indigenous scribes lived in mortal fear of transgression. Histories were burned and re-written to suit the memorializing needs of those in power. The space of written culture then, as now, seemed easier to control than embodied culture. But writing was far more dependent on embodied culture for transmission than the other way around. Enrique Florescano, an eminent Mexican historian, notes: "Besides the tlacuilos, or specialists who painted the books, there were specialists who read them, interpreted them, memorized them, and expounded on them in detail before audiences of non-specialists" (39).
To my mind, however, Florescano's description of these mutually sustaining systems overemphasizes the role of writing. It would be limiting to understand embodied performance as primarily transmitting those "essential facts" (Florescano, 39) written in the codices or painted books. The codices communicate far more than facts. The images, so visually dense, transmit knowledge of ritualized movement and everyday social practices. And many other kinds of knowledge that involved no written component were also passed on through expressive culture--through dances, rituals, funerals, huehuehtlahtolli ('the ancient word,' wisdom handed down through speech), and majestic displays of power and wealth. While scribes were trained in a specialized school or calmecac, these schools also taught dancing, recitation, and other forms of communication essential for social interaction. Education focused primarily on these techniques of the body to insure indoctrination and continuity.
What changed with the conquest was not that writing displaced embodied practice (we need only remember that the Jesuits brought their own embodied practices) but the degree of legitimization of writing over other epistemic and mnemonic systems. Writing now assured that Power, with a capital 'P' as Rama puts it, could be developed and enforced without the input of the great majority of the population, the indigenous and marginal populations of the colonial period without access to systematic writing. Not only did the colonizers burn the ancient codices, they limited the access to writing to a very small group of conquered males whom they felt would promote their evangelical efforts. While the conquerors elaborated, rather than transformed, an elite practice and gender-power arrangement, the importance granted writing came at the expense of embodied practices as a way of knowing and making claims. Those who controlled writing, first the friars, then the 'letrados' (literally lettered), gained inordinate amounts of power. Writing also allowed European imperial centers-Spain and Portugal-to control their colonial populations from abroad. Writing is about distance, as Michel de Certeau notes: "the power that writing's expansionism leaves intact is colonial in principle. It is extended without being changed. It is tautological, immunized against both any alterity that might transform it and whatever dares to resist it" (1988, 216).
The separation that Rama notes between the written and spoken word, and echoed in de Certeau, points to only one aspect of the repression of indigenous embodied practice as a form of knowing, as well as a system for storing and transmitting knowledge. Non-verbal practices--such as dance, ritual, cooking, to name a few-that long served to preserve a sense of communal identity and memory, were not considered valid forms of knowledge. Many kinds of performance, deemed idolatrous by religious and civil authorities, were prohibited altogether. Claims manifested through performance-whether the tying of robes to signify marriage or performed land claims ceased to carry legal weight. Those who had dedicated their lives to mastering cultural practices, such as carving masks or playing music, were not considered 'experts,' a designation reserved for book-learned scholars. While the Church substituted its own performatic practices, the neophytes could no longer lay claims to expertise or tradition to legitimate their authority. The rift, I submit, does not lie between the written and spoken word, but between the 'archive' of supposedly enduring materials (i.e., texts, documents, buildings, bones) and the more ephemeral 'repertoire' of embodied practice/knowledge (i.e., spoken language, dance, sports, ritual).
"Archival" memory exists as documents, maps, literary texts, letters, archaeological remains, bones, videos, films, cds, all those items supposedly resistant to change. Archive, from the Greek, etymologically refers to "a public building" to "a place where records are kept." From arkhe, it also means a beginning, the first place, the government. The archival, from the beginning, sustains power-we might conclude by shifting the dictionary entries into a syntactical arrangement. Archival memory works across distance, over time and space-investigators can go back to re-examine an ancient manuscript; letters find their addresses through time and place, and computer discs at times cough up lost files with the right software. The fact that archival memory succeeds in separating the source of 'knowledge' from the knower-in time and/or space-leads to comments, such as de Certeau's, that it is "expansionist" and "immunized against alterity" (216). What changes over time is the value, relevance, or meaning of the archive, how the items it contains get interpreted, even embodied. Bones might remain the same while their story may change-depending on the paleontologist or forensic anthropologist who examines them. Antigone might be performed in multiple ways, while the unchanging text assures a stable signifier. Written texts allow scholars to trace literary traditions, sources and influences. Insofar as it constitutes materials that seem to endure, the archive exceeds the 'live.' There are several myths attending the archive. One is that it is unmediated-that objects located there might mean something outside the framing of the archival impetus itself. What makes an object archival is the process whereby it is selected for analysis. Another myth is that the 'archive' resists change, corruptibility, and political manipulation. Individual things--books, DNA evidence, photo IDs--might mysteriously appear in or disappear from the archive.
The repertoire, on the other hand, enacts embodied memory-performances, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing-in short, all those acts usually thought of as ephemeral, non-reproducible knowledge. Repertoire, etymologically "a treasury, an inventory" also allows for individual agency, referring also to "the finder, discoverer," and meaning "to find out." The repertoire requires presence-people participate in the production and reproduction of knowledge by 'being there,' being a part of the transmission. As opposed to the supposedly stable objects in the archive, the actions that are the repertoire do not remain the same. The repertoire both keeps and transforms choreographies of meaning. Sports enthusiasts might claim that soccer has remained unchanged for the past hundred years, even though players and fans from different countries have appropriated the event in diverse ways. Dances change over time, even though generations of dancers (or even individual dancers) swear they're always the same. But even though the embodiment changes, the meaning might very well remain the same.
The repertoire too, then, allows scholars to trace traditions and influences. Many kinds of performances have traveled throughout the Americas, leaving their mark as they move. Scholar Richard Flores, for example, maps out the way pastorelas or shepherds' plays moved from Spain, to central Mexico, to Mexico's Northwest and then what is now the Southwest of the U.S. The different versions permit him to distinguish among various routes. Max Harris has traced the practice of a specific mock battle, moros y cristianos, from pre-conquest Spain to 16th century Mexico, and into the present. The repertoire allows for alternative perspective on historical processes of transnational contact, and invites a re-mapping of the Americas, this time by following traditions of embodied practice.
Certainly it is true that individual instances of performances disappear from the repertoire. This happens to a lesser degree in the archive. The question of disappearance in relation to the archive and the repertoire is one of kind as well as degree. The 'live' performance can never be captured or transmitted through the archive. A video of a performance is not a performance, though it often comes to replace the performance as a thing in itself (the video is part of the archive; what it represents is part of the repertoire). Embodied memory, because it is "live," exceeds the archive's ability to capture it. But that does not mean that performance-as ritualized, formalized, or reiterative behavior-disappears. Performances also replicate themselves through their own structures and codes. This means that the repertoire, like the archive, is mediated. The process of selection, memorization or internalization, and transmission takes place within (and in turn help constitute) specific systems of re-presentation. Multiple forms of embodied acts are always present, though in a constant state of again-ness. They reconstitute themselves-transmitting communal memories, histories, and values from one group/generation to the next. Embodied and performed acts generate, record, and transmit knowledge.
The archive and the repertoire have always been important sources of information, both exceeding the limitations of the other, in literate and semi-literate societies. Moreover, they usually work in tandem. Innumerable practices in the most literate societies require both an archival and embodied dimension-weddings need both the performative utterance of "I do" and the signed contract. The legality of a court decision lies in the combination of the live trial and the recorded outcome. The performance of a claim contributes to its legality. We have only to think of Columbus planting the Spanish flag in the 'New World' or Neil Armstrong planting the U.S. flag on the moon. Materials from the archive shape embodied practice in innumerable ways, yet never totally dictate embodiment. Jesus Martin-Barbero, the Colombian theorist who works in media studies, illustrates the uses that viewers make of mass media-say the soap opera. It's not simply that the media imposes structures of desire and appropriate behavior. The ways in which populations develop ways of viewing, living with, and re-telling or re-cycling the materials allow for a broad range of responses. Mediations, he argues, not 'the media' provide the key to understanding social behaviors. Those responses and behaviors, in turn, are taken up and appropriated by the mass media in a dialogic, rather than one-way, manner.
Even though the archive and the repertoire exist in a constant state of interaction, the tendency has been to banish the repertoire to the past. Jacques Le Goff, for example, writes of "ethnic memory:" "the principal domain in which the collective memory of peoples without writing crystallizes is that which provides an apparently historical foundation for the existence of ethnic groups or families, that is, myths of origin." He suggests, thus, that writing provides historical consciousness while orality provides mythic consciousness. Pierre Nora's distinction between the "lieux" and "'mileux' de memoire" creates a similar binary whereby the milieux (which closely resembles the repertoire) belongs to the past and 'lieux' is a thing of the present. For Nora, the milieux de memoire, what he calls the "real environments of memory" (284), enacts embodied knowledge: "gestures and habits, in skills passed down by unspoken traditions, in the body's inherent self-knowledge, in unstudied reflexes and ingrained memories" (289). The difference between my thinking and his, however, is that for him the 'mileux de memoire,' constitutes the primordial, unmediated, and spontaneous site of "true memory," while the "lieux de memoire"-the archival memory-is its antithesis, modern, fictional and highly mediated. A "trace," "mediation," and "distance," he argues, has separated the act from the meaning, moving us from the realm of true memory to that of history (lieux de memoire, 285). This paradigm polarizes history and memory as opposite poles of a binary. Nora does not differentiate between forms of transmission (embodied or archival), or between different kinds of publics and communities. His differentiation falls into a temporal before and after past (traditional, authentic, now lost) and present (generalized as modern, global, and 'mass' culture).
The relationship between the archive and the repertoire, as I see it, is certainly not sequential (the former ascending to prominence after the disappearance of the latter as Nora would have it). Nor is it 'true' versus 'false,' mediated versus unmediated, primordial versus modern. Nor is it a straightforward binary-with the written and archival constituting hegemonic power and the repertoire providing the anti-hegemonic challenge. Performance belongs to the strong as well as the weak; it underwrites de Certeau's 'strategies' as well as 'tactics,' Bahktin's 'banquet' as well as 'carnival.' The modes of storing and transmitting knowledge are many and mixed and embodied performances have often contributed to the maintenance of a repressive social order. We need only look to the broad range of political practices in the Americas exercised on human bodies from pre-conquest human sacrifices, to Inquisitorial burnings at the stake, to the lynchings of African Americans, to contemporary acts of state sponsored torture and 'disappearances.' We need not polarize the relationship between these different kinds of knowledge to acknowledge that they have often proved antagonistic in the struggle for cultural survival or supremacy.
The tensions developed historically between the archive and the repertoire continue to play themselves out in discussions about "world" culture and "intangible heritage." While this is not the place to rehearse the arguments in any detail, I would like at least to point to some of the issues that concern my topic. As laws have increasingly come into place to protect intellectual and artistic property, people have also considered ways to protect "intangible" property. How do we protect the performances, behaviors, and expressions that constitute the repertoire? UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is currently wrestling with how to promote the work "of safeguarding, protecting and revitalizing cultural spaces or forms of cultural expression proclaimed as 'masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity." These safeguards would protect "traditional and popular forms of cultural expression" such as, their example, storytelling.
Insofar as the materials in the repertoire participate in the production and transmission of knowledge, I agree that they warrant protection. Yet, it is not clear that UNESCO has been able to conceive of how best to protect this "intangible heritage." While they recognize that the "methods of preservation applicable to the physical heritage are inappropriate for the intangible heritage," these differences can only be imagined in language and strategies associated with the archive. Masterpieces points not only to objects, but to an entire system of valorization that Artaud had discarded as outdated in the early 20th century. Heritage, linked etymologically to inheritance, again underlines the material property that passes down to the heirs. Humanity might well be considered as both the producer and the consumer of these cultural goods, but its abstraction undermines the sense of cultural agency. Moreover, UNESCO's goal seems to protect certain kinds of performances-basically those produced by the 'traditional' and 'popular' sectors. This move repeats the salvage ethnography of the first half of the 20th century, implying that these forms would disappear without official intervention and preservation. Part of UNESCO's project involves moving materials from the repertoire into the archive ["(a) to record their form on tape"]. However, UNESCO is also consciously trying to protect embodied transmission ["(b) to facilitate their survival by helping the persons concerned and assisting transmission to future generations"]. But how will this be accomplished? The one program they have developed thus far, "Living Human Treasures," protects the "possessors of traditional cultural skills." To me, this conjures up visions of a fetishized humanoid object that Guillermo Gomez-Pena might dream up for a living diorama in an installation. These solutions seem destined to reproduce the problems of objectifying, isolating, and exoticizing the non-Western that they claim to address. Without understanding the working of the repertoire, the ways in which peoples produce and transmit knowledge through embodied action, it will be difficult to know how to develop legal claims to ownership. But this differs from the 'preservation' argument that, to my mind, barely conceals a deep colonial nostalgia.
The strain between what I call the archive and repertoire has often been constructed as existing between written and spoken language. The archive includes, but is not limited to, written texts. The repertoire contains verbal performances-songs, prayers, speeches-as well as non-verbal practices. The written/oral divide does, on one level, capture the archive/repertoire difference I am developing in this study insofar as the means of transmission differ, as do the requirements of storage and dissemination. The repertoire, whether in terms of verbal or non-verbal expression, transmits 'live,' embodied actions. As such, traditions are stored in the body, through various mnemonic methods, and transmitted "live" in the here and now to a live audience. Forms handed down from the past are experienced as present. While this may well describe the mechanics of spoken language, it also describes a dance recital or a religious festival. It is only because Western culture is wedded to the word, whether written or spoken, that language claims such epistemic and explanatory power.
The writing=memory/knowledge equation is central to Western epistemology. "The metaphor of memory as a written surface is so ancient and so persistent in all Western cultures," writes Mary Carruthers, "that it must, I think, be seen as a governing model or 'cognitive archetype" (16). That model continues to bring about the disappearance of embodied knowledge that it so frequently announces. During the 16th century, de Certeau argues that writing and printing allowed for "an indefinite reproduction of the same products" as "opposed to speech, which neither travels very far nor preserves much of anything [c] the signifier cannot be detached from the individual or collective body" (1988, 216, italics in the original). [Parenthetically, the limitation that de Certeau attributes here to speech-the signifier cannot be detached from the individual or collective body-also of course contributes to the political, affective, and mnemonic power of the repertoire, as I argue in this study.]
Freud's "A Note Upon the 'Mystic Writing-Pad'" by-passes the historically situated human body in his theorizations on memory. By using the admittedly imperfect analogy to the 'mystic writing pad,' Freud attempts to approximate the "unlimited receptive capacity and a retention of permanent traces" which he sees as fundamental properties of "the perceptual apparatus of the mind." A modern computer, of course, serves as a better analogy, though it too fails to generate memories and its exterior body-a see-through shell in the new Macintosh models-serves only to protect and highlight the marvelous internal apparatus. Neither the mystic writing pad nor the computer allow for a body. So too, Freud's analogy limits itself to the external writing mechanism and the pure disembodied psychic apparatus that "has an unlimited receptive capacity for new perceptions and nevertheless lays down permanent-even though not unalterable-memory-traces on them" (228). The psyche can only be imagined as a writing surface, the permanent-trace only as an act of writing. Writing, instead of reinforcing memory, or providing an analogy, becomes memory itself: "I have only to bear in mind the place where this 'memory' has been deposited and I can then 'reproduce' it at any time I like, with the certainty that it will have remained unaltered" (227).
Derrida, in "Freud and the Scene of Writing," refers to the "metaphor of writing which haunts European discourse" without expanding towards the idea of a repertoire of embodied knowledge. Even when he points to areas for further research, he calls for a "history of writing" (214) without noting what that history might disappear in its very coming to light. When he writes, "writing is unthinkable without repression," the repression that comes to my mind is that history of colonial repudiation through documentation that dates back to the16th centuries Americas. For Derrida, those repressions are "the deletions, blanks, and disguises" of and within writing itself-surely an act of writing that stages its own practice of erasure and foreclosure.
The dominance of language and writing has come to stand for meaning itself. Live, embodied practices not based in linguistic or literary codes, we must assume, have no claims on meaning. As Barthes puts it, "the intelligible is reputed antipathetic to lived experience." While this suggests that Barthes disagreed with situating intelligibility as antithetical to lived experience, in other essays he asserts that everything that has meaning becomes "a kind of writing."
Part of what 'performance' and performance studies allows us to do, then, is take seriously the repertoire of embodied practices as an important system of knowing and transmitting knowledge. The repertoire, on a very practical level, expands the traditional 'archive' used by academic departments in the Humanities. Departments of Spanish and Portuguese in the United States, for example, emphasize 'language and literature,' though literature is clearly their focus. In Latin American institutions, 'departamentos de letras' which include literature and cultural studies, belong to the school of "filosofia y letras' (Philosophy and Literature). Some of these departments do focus on oral literatures, which on the surface at least seem to combine materials from the repertoire and the archive. However, the term oral 'literature' itself tells us that the oral has already been transformed into literature, the repertoire transferred to the archive. The oral was "historically constituted as a category, [c] even fabricated," Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett argues, under the forces of nationalism. The archive, in the case of oral literatures, predates and constitutes the phenomena it purports to document. Nonetheless, many of these departments do combine the workings of the archive and the repertoire in productive ways, although perhaps not in the way that scholars might expect. Departments that actually take the teaching of language seriously, for example, have some experience in thinking about reiterated, embodied social practice. Students learn a second language by imagining themselves in a different social setting, by staging scenarios where the acquired language takes on meaning, by imitation, repeating, and rehearsing not just words but cultural attitudes. Theorizing these practices, not just as pedagogical strategies but as the transmission of embodied cultural behavior, would enable scholars to branch out into new critical thinking about the repertoire. A performance studies lens would enrich these disciplines, bridging the schism not only between literary and oral traditions, but between verbal and non-verbal embodied cultural practice.
Similarly, performance studies challenges the disciplinary compartmentalization of the arts-with dance assigned to one department, music to another, dramatic performance to yet another-as though many forms of artistic production have anything to do with those divides. This compartmentalization also reinforces the notion that the arts are separable from the social constructs within which they participate-either for the first or nth time. Performances, even those with almost purely aesthetic pretensions, move in all sorts of circuits-including national and transnational spaces and economies. Every performance enacts a theory, and every theory performs in the public sphere. Because of its interdisciplinary character, performance studies can bring disciplines that had previously been kept separate into direct contact with each other and with their historical, intellectual, and socio-political context. This training challenges students to develop their theoretical paradigms by drawing both from textual and embodied practice. They receive training in various methodologies-ethnographic fieldwork, interviewing techniques, movement analysis, textual analysis, among others.
Performance studies, then, offers a way of re-thinking the cannon and critical methodologies. For even as scholars in the U.S. and Latin America acknowledge the need to free ourselves from the dominance of the text-as the privileged or even sole object of analysis-our theoretical tools continue to be haunted by the literary legacy. While some scholars turn to cultural studies, and no longer limit themselves to the examination of texts, their training in close readings and textual analysis might well turn everything they view into a text or narrative-whether it's a funeral, electoral campaign, or carnival. The tendency in cultural studies to treat all phenomena as textual differentiates it from performance studies. While cultural studies expands the range of materials under consideration, it still leaves all the explanatory power with the 'letrados' while occluding other forms of transmission. Dwight Conquergood carries the point further in a recent essay, "only middle-class academics could blithely assume that all the world is a text because texts and reading are central to their life-world, and occupational security."
It's imperative now-however overdue-to pay attention to the repertoire. But what would that entail methodologically? It's not simply that we shift our focus to the 'live' as object of analysis. Or develop various strategies for garnering information, such as undertaking ethnographic research, interviews, and field notes. Or even alter our hierarchies of legitimation that structure our traditional academic practice (such as book learning, written sources and documents). We need to re-think our method of analysis.
Here I will focus on one example. Instead of privileging texts and narratives we could also look to 'scenarios' as meaning-making paradigms that structure social environments, behaviors, and potential outcomes. Scenarios of discovery, for example, have re-appeared constantly throughout the past 500 years in the Americas. Why do they continue to be so compelling? What accounts for their explanatory and affective power? How can they be parodied and subverted? Scenario, "a sketch or outline of the plot of a play, giving particulars of the scenes, situations etc.," like performance, means never for the first time. Like Barthes' mythical speech, it consists of "material which has already been worked on" (Mythologies,110). Its portable framework bears the weight of accumulative repeats. The scenario makes visible, yet again, what is already there-the ghosts, the images, the stereotypes. The discoverer, conqueror, and 'savage,' the native princess, for example, might be staple characters in many Western scenarios. Sometimes they are written down as scripts, but the scenario predates the script and allows for many possible 'endings.' At times, people may actually undertake adventures to live the glorious fantasy of possession. Others may tune in regularly to television shows along the lines of "survivor" or "fantasy island." The scenario structures our understanding. It also haunts our present, a form of hauntology (see Ch 5), that resuscitates and reactivates old dramas. We've seen it all before. The framework allows for occlusions-by positioning our perspective, it promotes certain views while helping to disappear others. In the "fantasy island" scenario, for example, we might be encouraged to overlook the displacement and disappearance of native peoples, gender exploitation, environmental impact, and so on. This partial blinding is what I have previously called percepticide.
The scenario includes features well theorized in literary analysis such as narrative and plot, but demands that we also pay attention to milieux and corporeal behaviors such as gestures, attitude, and tone not reducible to language. Simultaneously set-up and action, scenarios frame and activate social dramas. The set-up lays out the range of possibilities-all the elements are there: encounter, conflict, resolution, and denouement, for example. These elements, of course, are in themselves the product of social economic, political, and social structures that they, in turn, tend to reproduce. All scenarios have localized meaning, though many attempt to pass as universally valid. Actions and behaviors arising from the set-up might be predictable-a seemingly natural consequence of the assumptions, values, goals, power-relations, presumed audience, and epistemic grids established by the set-up itself. But they are, ultimately, flexible and open to change. Social actors may be assigned roles-deemed static and inflexible by some. Nonetheless, the irreconcilable friction between the social actors and the role allows for degrees of critical detachment and cultural agency. The scenario of conquest, restaged in numerous acts of possession, as well as in plays, rituals, and mock battles throughout the Americas, can and has often been subverted from within. Examples range from 16th century mock battles to Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco's 1992 "Couple in the Cage." Like narrative, as V. Propp proposed in 1928, scenarios are limited to a finite number of variations, with their own classifications, categories, themes, forms, characters and so on. Here, I will simply point to some of the ways in which using scenario as a paradigm for understanding social structures and behaviors might allow us to draw from the repertoire as well as the archive.
First: To recall, recount, or reactivate a scenario we need to conjure up the physical location (the 'scene' as physical environment such as a stage or place in English, escenario-a false cognate-means scene in Spanish). Scene denotes intentionality, artistic or otherwise (the scene of the crime), and signals conscious strategies of display. The word appropriately suggests both the material stage as well as the highly codified environment that gives viewers pertinent information-say class status or historical period. The furnishings, clothing, sounds, and style contribute to the viewer's understanding of what might conceivably transpire there. The two, scene and scenario, or escenario and scenario, stand in metonymic relationship--the place allows us to think about the possibilities of the action. But action also defines place. If, as de Certeau suggests, "space is a practiced place" (1984, 117), then there is no such thing as place, for no place is free of history and social practice.
Second: In scenarios, viewers need to deal with the embodiment of the social actors. Thus, in addition to the functions these actors perform, so well charted by Propp in relation to narrative structures, the scenario requires us to wrestle with the social construction of bodies in particular contexts. While Propp stresses the importance of visual detail in describing the attributes of the characters, "by attributes we mean the totality of all the external qualities of the characters: their age, sex, status, external appearance, peculiarities of appearance, and so forth" (87), scenarios by definition introduce the generative critical distance between social actor and character. Whether it's a question of mimetic representation (an actor assuming a role) or whether it's a question of performativity, of social actors assuming socially regulated patterns of appropriate behavior, the scenario more fully allows us to keep both the social actor and the role in view simultaneously, and thus recognize the areas of resistance and tension. The frictions between 'plot' and "character" (on the level of narrative) and embodiment (social actors) make for some of the most remarkable instances of parody and resistance in performance traditions in the Americas.
Take the mock battles of the Moors and Christians, for example, staged in Mexico in the 16th century. The tradition, as the name implies, came from Spain, a transplanting of the theme of the 'reconquest' of Spain after the expulsion of Moors and Jews in 1492. In Mexico, these battles ended predictably with the defeat of the Indians-as-Moors and a mass baptism. On the level of the narrative structure that polarizes groups into definable us/them, we must agree with commentators who see in these performances the reiterative humiliation of the native populations. In regard to measurable efficaciousness, we might conclude that these scenarios were highly successful from the Spaniard's perspective, leading as they did to the conversion of thousands of people. The embodied performance, however, permits us to recognize other dimensions as well. For one thing, all the 'actors' of the mock battles were indigenous-some dressed up as Spaniards, others as Turks. Rather than cementing cultural and racial difference, as the plot and characterization intends, the enactment might have more to do with cultural masquerading and strategic re-positioning. The indigenous performers were neither Moors nor Christians, and their reenactments allowed them to dress up and act out their own versions of the us/them. In one particularly humorous rendition, the 'character' of the doomed Muslim king surprisingly turned into that of the conqueror Cortes. The obligatory defeat of the Moor in the scripted version masked the joyful, unscripted defeat of the Spaniards in the performance. In this mock-battle, the conquered staged their longing for their own reconquista of Mexico, as Max Harris has argued. The space of ambiguity and maneuver does not lie, however, in the "hidden transcript" - the term developed by anthropologist James Scott to mark strategies that subordinate groups create "that represents a critique of power spoken behind the back of the dominant." Transcripts, normally understood as written copy or documents, transfer archival knowledge within a specific economy of interaction. This mock battle makes clear that it's the embodied nature of the repertoire that grants these social actors the opportunity to re-arrange characters in parodic and subversive ways. The parody takes place in front of the Spaniards themselves, one of whom was struck enough by its seemingly ridiculous confusion and naivete of the 'natives' that he wrote it down.
Third: Scenarios, by encapsulating both the set-up and the action/behaviors, are formulaic structures that predispose certain outcomes and yet allow for reversal, parody, and change. The frame is basically fixed and, as such, repeatable and transferable. Scenarios may consciously reference each other by the way they frame the situation and quote words and gestures. They may often appear stereotypical, with situations and characters frozen within them. The scenario of conquest has been replayed again and again-from Cortes' entrance into Tenochtitlan, to the meeting between Pizarro and Atahualpa, to Onate's claiming possession of New Mexico. Each repeat adds to its affective and explanatory power until the outcome seems a foregone conclusion. Each new conqueror may expect the natives to fall at his feet just on the strength of the reactivated scenario. In time and with changing circumstances, however, the paradigm may become obsolete and be replaced by another. Early 16th century scenarios of conquest, as Jill Lane notes, became recast as scenarios of conversion by the end of the century in efforts to mitigate the violence of the entangled projects. Conquest, as a term rather than as a project, was out. Thus, as with Bourdieu's habitus, "a particular type of environment (e.g. the material conditions of existence characteristic of class condition) produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositionsc" , scenarios are durable and transposable dispositions. That is, they are passed on and they remain remarkably coherent paradigms of seemingly unchanging attitudes and values. Yet, they adapt constantly to reigning conditions. Unlike habitus, which can refer to broad social structures such as class, scenarios refer to more specific repertoires of cultural imaginings.
Fourth: The transmission of a scenario reflects the multifaceted systems at work in the scenario itself: in passing it on, we can draw from various modes that come from the archive and/or the repertoire-writing, telling, reenaction, mime, gestus, dance. The multiplicity of forms of transmission remind of us the multiple systems at work-one is not reducible to another. They have different discursive and performatic structures. A cry, or a Brechtian gestus, might find no adequate verbal description, for these expressions are not reducible or posterior to language. The challenge is not about 'translating' from an embodied expression into a linguistic one or vice versa but of recognizing the strengths and limitations of each system.
Fifth: The scenario forces us to situate ourselves in relationship to it-as participants, spectators or witnesses we need to 'be there,' part of the act of transfer. Thus, the scenario precludes a certain kind of distancing. Even the ethnographic writers who cling to fantasies that they might observe cultures from the margins are part of the scenario; though perhaps not the one the writers strive to describe.
Sixth: A scenario is not necessarily, or even primarily, mimetic. While the paradigm allows for a continuity of cultural myths and assumptions, it usually works through reactivation rather than duplication. Rather than a copy, the scenario constitutes a once-againness.
Thinking about a scenario rather than narrative, however, does not solve some of the issues inherent to representation in any form. The ethical problems of reproducing violence, whether in writing or in embodied behavior, plague scholars and artists, readers and spectators. Saidiya V. Hartman, in Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America writes: "Only more obscene than the brutality unleashed at the whipping post is the demand that this suffering be materialized and evidenced by the display of the tortured body or endless recitations of the ghastly and the terrible" (4). While I agree with Hartman that of interest "are the ways we are called upon to participate in such scenes"(3)-as witnesses, spectators, or voyeurs-the scenario, as I posit in "Scenarios of Discovery" (Ch 2), physically places the spectator within the frame and can force the ethical question: the signifier, we recall, cannot be detached from the individual or collective body."
By considering scenarios as well as narratives, we expand our ability to rigorous analyze the 'live' and the 'scripted,' the citational practices that characterize both, how traditions get constituted and contested, the various trajectories and influences that might appear in one but not in the other. Scenarios, like other forms of transmission, allow commentators to historicize specific practices. In short, as I will argue in the chapters that follow, the notion of the scenario allows us to more fully recognize the many ways in which the archive and repertoire work to constitute and transmit social knowledge. The scenario places spectators within its frame, implicating us in its ethics and politics.
In the section that follows, I give an extended example of what an attempt to historicize performance might look like. While all the chapters in this study look at contemporary performances in the Americas, throughout I propose that some of the debates I deal with can in fact be traced back to the 16th century. Scenarios change and adapt, but they don't seem to go away.
III Historicizing Performance
In order to provide a truthful and reliable account of the origin of these
Indian nations, an origin so doubtful and obscure, we would need some divine
revelation or assistance to reveal this origin to us and help us understand
it. However, lacking that revelation we can only speculate and conjecture about
these beginnings, basing ourselves on the evidence provided by these people,
whose strange ways, conduct, and lowly actions are so like those of the Hebrews,
and I would not commit a great error if I were to state this as fact, considering
their way of life, their ceremonies, their rites and superstitions, their omens
and hypocrisies, so akin to and characteristic of those of the Jews; in no way
do they seem to differ. The Holy Scriptures bear witness to this, and from them
we draw proofs and reasons for holding this opinion to be true.
(Fray Diego Duran, The History of the Indies of New Spain, 3)
The inaugural moment of colonialism in the Americas introduces two discursive
moves that work to devalue native performance, even while the colonizers where
deeply engaged in their own performative project of creating a 'new' Spain from
an (idealized) image of the 'old:' 1) the dismissal of indigenous performance
traditions as episteme, and 2) the dismissal of 'content' (religious belief)
as bad objects, idolatry. These discourses simultaneously contradict and sustain
each other. The first posits that performances, as an ephemeral, non-written
phenomenon, cannot serve to create or transmit knowledge. Thus, all traces of
peoples without 'writing' have disappeared. Only divine revelation, according
to Duran, can help observers like himself recount the past by fitting it into
pre-existing accounts (such as the Biblical). The second discourse admits that
performance does indeed transmit knowledge, but insofar as that knowledge is
idolatrous and opaque, performance itself needs to be controlled or eliminated.
While I would argue that remnants of both of these discourses continue to filter
our understanding of contemporary performance practices in the Americas, my
emphasis here will be on the initial deployment of these two discourses in the
16th century. Although I outline the two discourses separately, as they have
been handed down to us, they are of course inseparable and work in tandem.
Part of the colonizing project throughout the Americas consisted in discrediting autochthonous ways of preserving and communicating historical understanding. As a result, the very existence/presence of these populations has come under question. Aztec and Mayan codices, or painted books, were destroyed as idolatrous, bad objects. But the colonizers also tried to destroy embodied memory systems, by both stamping them out and discrediting them. The Huarochiri Manuscript, written in Quechua at the end of the 16th century by Friar Francisco de Avila, sets the tone: "If the ancestors of the people called Indians had known writing in early times, then the lives they lived would not have faded from view until now" (41). The very "lives they lived" fade into "absence" when writing alone functions as archival evidence, as proof of presence.
Performance studies, we might claim anachronistically, was first articulated in the Americas as 'absence studies,' disappearing the very populations it pretends to explain. Duran's opening statement in his History of the Indies of New Spain (written in the second half of the 16th century) insists that we would need "divine revelation or assistance" in order to "provide a truthful and reliable account of the origin of these Indian nations" (3). From the 16th century onwards, scholars have complained about the lack of valid sources. While these claims go unchallenged, the early friars make clear the ideological assumptions/biases of what counts as 'sources.' Duran stressed the value of written texts for his archival project, lamenting "some early friars burned ancient books and writings and thus they were lost. Then, too, the old people who could write these books are no longer alive to tell of the settling of this country, and it was they whom I would have consulted for my chronicle." That knowledge, he assumes, must necessarily be lost with the destruction of writing. Why else would he not consult the heirs to the "living memory"? He had no choice, he concludes, but to rely on his own best judgment.
Since before the conquest, as I noted, writing and embodied performance have often worked together to layer the historical memories that constitute community. The image at the beginning of section II illustrates the collaborative production of knowledge led by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun that involved recitation, writing, and a back-and-forth dialogue. The Jesuit friar, Joseph de Acosta, described how young people were trained in oral traditions: "It should be known that Mexicans had a great curiosity in that young people learn by heart the sayings and compositions, and for that they had schools, like colleges or seminaries, where the old taught the young these and many other things that by tradition they conserve as whole as if they had writing among them." Dance/song (arietos and 'cantares') functioned as a way of telling history and communicating past glories: "the cantares referred to memorable things and events that took place in times past and present; and they were sung in the arietos and public dances and in them too they told the praises with which they aggrandized their kings and people deserving remembrance; for that they took great care that the verse and language be very polished and dignified."
16th century indigenous poet, Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, composed a poem to be recited that depicts memory as grounded both in orality and in writing (pictographs):
Never will it be lost, never will it be forgotten,
that which they came to do,
that which they came to record in their paintings:
their renown, their history, their memory.
The telling is as important as the writing, the doing as central as the recording.
Memory paths and documented records might retain what the other 'forgot.' These
systems sustain and mutually produce each other--neither is outside or antithetical
to the logic of the other.
Local scribes in the Andes have also been keeping written records in Quechua and Spanish since the 16th century. Even so, historical and genealogical information has been, and continues to be, performed and transmitted through performed 'memory paths,' as anthropologist Thomas Abercrombie puts it, the ritualized incantations by inebriated males of names of ancestors and scared places during which they remember and recite the events associated with them. Through these 'paths,' they access ancestral stories, hearsay, and eye-witness accounts. (As the percentage of literate persons in the Andes has actually decreased since the 16th century, the need to recognize cultural transmission through embodied knowledge becomes even more pressing.)
Even though the relationship between the 'archive' and the 'repertoire' is not by definition antagonistic or oppositional, written documents have repeatedly announced the disappearance of the performance practices involved in mnemonic transmission. Writing has served as a strategy for repudiating and foreclosing the very embodiedness it claims to describe. Friar Avila was not alone in prematurely announcing the demise of practices, and peoples, that he could neither understand nor control. Again, parenthetically, it is important to stress that the repudiation of practices under examination cannot be limited to archival documentation. As Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett makes clear in Destination Culture, exhibitions, model villages, and other forms of 'live' display often do the same-repudiate the cultures they claim to make visible.
What is at risk politically in thinking about embodied knowledge and performance as that which disappears? Whose memories "disappear" if only archival knowledge is valorized and granted permanence? Should we simply expand our notion of the archive to house the mnemonic and gestural practices and specialized knowledge transmitted 'live'? On the contrary: as I have tried to establish here, there is an advantage to thinking about a "repertoire" performed through dance, theatre, song, ritual, witnessing, healing practices, memory paths, and the many other forms of repeatable behaviors as something that cannot be housed or contained in the archive.
Now, I will look at the second discourse that admits that performance generates and transmits knowledge, but rejects that knowledge as idolatrous and indecipherable. The charge against the 'ephemeral' and 'constructed' and 'visual' nature of performance has tied into the discourse on idolatry. As Bruno Latour cautions in his essay "Towards an Anthropology of the Iconoclastic Gesture," "a large part of our critical acumen depends on a clear distinction between what is real and what is constructed, what is out there in the nature of things and what is there in the representation we make of them. Something has been lost however for the sake of this clarity and a heavy price has been paid for this dichotomy between ontological questions on the one hand and the epistemological questions on the other." How does this fracture between the 'ontological' and the 'epistemological' (the is/as) relate to iconoclasm? By de-legitimating the constructed as a fetish or idol, the iconoclast attacks it with the 'hammer' of 'truth' -i.e., God, who has not been made or constructed, is alone capable of creating. As the 16th century friar, Bernardino de Sahagun, explains in his prologue to Book One of the Florentine Codex, the idolater worships the constructed image, forgetting that God, not humans, is "the Creator" (56). "Unhappy are they, the accursed dead who worshipped as gods carvings of stone, carvings of wood, representations, images, things made of gold or of copper" (57). The "things made," representations and images were all deemed false, deceptive, pitiful, ephemeral, and dangerous. The "fact" that the indigenous peoples had been "deceived" cost them their humanity: "The people here on earth who know not God are not counted as human" (55). In shattering one idol, Sahagun creates his own false representation: the image of native peoples as "vain," "worthless," "blind," "confused [c] All their acts, their lives, were all viscous, filthy" (59-60). Latour, while fully owning the constructedness of the fetish, argues for the constructedness of the 'fact' as well: "the iconoclast [c] naively believed that the very facts he was using to shatter the idol were themselves produced without the help of any human agency" (69).
Importantly, Sahagun's argument centers on binaries created between the visible and the invisible, between embodied and archival knowledge, between those idolaters who worship that which can be seen and those who know that the true God is the one "who is not seen" (FC, I, 56). Sahagun asks the 'natives' to forego the image and accept "the wordc here written" (55). The 'word' encapsulates the power of the sacred and the political, for it is the word of God which "the King of Spain has sent to you," as well as the Pope, "the Holy Father, who dwelleth in Rome" (55). The 'natives,' he objects, only know their gods through their physical manifestations (the sun, moon, rain, fire, stars and so forth), but did not recognize the (invisible) creator behind these manifestations.
Clearly, the Mexica and other conquered native groups did not endorse the Western true/false, visible/invisible divide. They admitted no ontological distinction between human and non-human creation (i.e., 'nature'/ritual). Rather, for the Mexicas, human creation participated in the dynamism of the cosmic order. Nature was ritualized just as ritual was naturalized. Mountains and temples shared the same cosmic function of mediating between the 'cielo de arriba' (the sky above) and 'cielo de abajo' (the sky below). This concept has little to do with the theories of representation, mimesis, or isomorphism that underwrite the Western separation between the 'original' and the once-removed. The performances-rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices-were not 'just' representations but (among other things) presentations to the Gods as forms of debt-payment. They constituted the is as well as the as if. These performances were of course also political-they cemented and made visible a social order, re-mapping the known universe with Tenochtitlan as the 'ombligo' or center.
The Nahautl word, ixiptlatl, usually translated as 'imagen,' points to the basic misunderstanding. Imagen belongs to the same etymologic family as imitar. But ixiptlatl does not mean 'imitar' but its opposite, the understanding of "spiritual being and physical being as fully integrated." Ixiptlatl constitutes a very flexible category that includes gods, god delegates, god impersonators, priests, sacrificial victims dressed as gods, beggars wearing the flayed skins of captives, wooden and vegetable seed-dough figures. One of the requirements of the ixiptlatl was that it be 'made,' 'constructed' and that it be 'temporary, concocted for the occasion, made and unmade during the course of the action" (Clendinnen, 1991: 252). Its constructed quality enabled, rather than detracted from, its sacred quality because the making was the currency of participation. Rather than a fetish, in which facere (to make) comes to mean feitico (sorcery, artificiality, idols), the ixiptlatl's constructedness allows for communication, presence, and exchange. 'Delegado' (delegate), or 'representante' (representative), or 'enviado' (envoy) are more precise translations for ixiptlatl, reflecting that "which enables the god to present aspects of himself" (sic, Clendinnen, 1991: 253). In other words, the ixiptlatl more closely coincided with the Catholic idea of transubstantiation than with an image or idol. The consecrated wafer, though man-made, was the body of Christ-not a representation or metaphor. Though an object, Catholics see it as imbued with divine essence, accomplishing the integration of spiritual and physical substance. Needless to say, the Catholic's deep anxiety about assuring orthodoxy in the understanding of the spiritual/ physical relationship in their own practice (especially in the age of the Council of Trent) contributed to their dismissal of Mexica's ixiptlatl as 'bad objects' (idols).
The temporary nature of the ixiptlatl should not, as the Spaniards would suggest, connote the 'ephemeral' and disappearing nature of the phenomena. The constant making and unmaking points to the active role of human beings in promoting the regenerative quality of the universe, of life, of performance-all in a constant state of again-ness. Conversely, we can note in passing that the obsessive dependence on ritual participation also suggests that the Mexica and other groups were trapped in an socio-political system defined and maintained by ritually induced crisis-whether it was the rehearsal of the end of the world every 52 years in the New Fire ceremony or in relation to other natural cataclysms such as draught or earthquakes. The making/unmaking reflects the defiance and terror associated with disappearance-the first four suns had all come to a catastrophic end. The extreme reliance on performance constituted the attempts by the Mexica to forestall closure by constantly choreographing the various apparitions, correspondences, and interventions (divine and human) that kept the universe in movement.
Interestingly, Sahagun interviewed the "leading elders" of villages for years, and worked closely with experts "in all things courtly, military, governmental, and even idolatrous." One assumes that he would have understood the multiple functions and meanings of the ixiptlatl as somewhat more complex than the biblical notion of the graven image. Not so. These are the images that he included to back up his argument about the indigenous people's idolatrous practices.
[Figure 3. Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex, Illustrations, Vol. 1]
Whether the Mexica performances were effective in maintaining the cosmic order or, rather, a symptom of profound disorder is open to debate. But there was no doubt in the minds of any of the early evangelists that performance practices efficaciously transmitted collective memories, values, and belief systems.
Sahagun clearly recognized how beliefs were transmitted through performance, though he acknowledged that he did not understand the content. The Devil, "our enemy planted, in this land, a forest or a thorny thicket filled with very dense brambles, to perform his works therefrom and to hide himself therein in order not to be discovered." The enemy of transparency, the Devil takes advantage of songs and dances and other practices of indigenous people as "hiding places in order to perform his works [c] Said songs contain so much guile that they say anything and proclaim that which he commands. But only those he addresses understand them." The colonist's claim to access met with the diabolic opaqueness of performance. "And [these songs] are sung to him without its being understood what they are about, other than by those who are natives and versed in this language [c] without being understood by others" (58). Shared performance and linguistic practices constituted the community itself. Others could not decipher the codes. The spiritual conquest, these friars feared, was at best tentative. The Devil awaits the "return to the dominion he has held [c] And for that time it is good that we have weapons on hand to meet him with. And to this end not only that which is written in this third Book but also that which is written in the first, second, fourth and fifth Books will serve" (59).
Writing served as a recognized weapon in the colonial arsenal. Sahagun maintained that he needed to write down all the indigenous practices in order to better eradicate them: "it is needful to know how they practiced them in the time of their idolatry, for, through [our] lack of knowledge of this, they perform many idolatrous things in our presence without our understanding it." 'Preservation' served as a call to erasure. The ethnographic approach to the subject matter offered a safe strategy for handling dangerous materials. It allowed, simultaneously, for documentation and disappearance-the accounts preserved 'diabolic' habits as forever alien and unassimilateable, transmitting a deep disgust for the behaviors described. The studied, scholarly distancing functioned as repudiation. Yet, even after fifty years of compiling the massive materials on Mexica practices, Sahagun suspected that they had not completely disappeared.
These early colonial writings are all about erasure-either claiming that ancient practices had disappeared, or trying to accomplish the disappearance they invoked. Ironically, they reveal a deep admiration for the peoples and cultures targeted for destruction, what Sahagun refers to more than once as "the degree of perfection of this Mexican people." And more ironic, these writings have become invaluable archival resources on ancient practices. During Sahagun's lifetime, in fact, the Office of the Holy Inquisition concluded that instead of serving as 'weapons' against idolatry, the books preserved and transmitted what they attempted to eradicate. The prohibition was outright: "with great care and diligence you take measures to get these books without there remaining originals or copies of them [c] you will be advised not to permit anyone, for any reason, in any language, to write concerning the superstitions and way of life these Indians had."
Yet for all the ambivalence and prohibitions, these 16th century writers begrudgingly observed something again and again: these practices were not disappearing. They continued to communicate meanings that their nervous observers did not understand. In 1539, a governmental edict took a hammer to the indigenous observance of the 'sacred,' demoting it to a secular distraction. It mandated "that the Indians not have fiestas [c] in which there are areitos" and prohibited churches from attracting the native population "by profane means that include arietos, dancers, pole-flyers, that look like things of theatre or spectacle, because these spectacles distract their hearts from the concentration, quiet and devotion that one should have for divine practice" (239-240). The fiestas, dances, and pole-flyers, integral components of the sacred, were now ordered aside in favor of the quiet behaviors the Spaniards associated with "divine practice." In 1544 an edict lamented the 'shame that  in front of the Holy Sacrament there go men with masks and wearing women's clothes, dancing and jumping, swaying indecently and lasciviously [c] And, beside this, there is another greater objection, and that is the custom that these natives ['naturales'] had in their antiquity of solemnizing their fiestas to their idols with dances, music, rejoicing. They will think and accept it as doctrine and law that in this foolishness lies the sanctification of the fiestas" (241-2). A 1555 edict calls attention to the continuing nature of theses practices: "Very inclined are the Indians of these parts to dances, and areitos and other forms of rejoicing that since their heathenism they were in the habit of practicing" and prohibits the following: "no use of insignia, nor ancient masks, that can cause any suspicion whatever, nor singing the songs of their rituals and ancient histories" (245). I'll skip to 1651, "that in the Easter fiestas no profane comedies be permitted, nor indecent things mixed togetherc" But the prohibitions had widened-now the edicts targeted not just the native peoples but the 'religiosos' as well: "clergy should not dress up as women" (252). The practices, these edicts suggest, were in fact expanding, catching on with non-indigenous peoples. In 1670 the edicts include "not only Indians, but the Spaniards and the clergy" (253). In 1702, the battle against idolatrous performance continued with new prohibitions: "that there be no dances or other ceremonies that make allusion or reference to the superstitions of ancient heathenism" (257). And on and on: 1768, 1769, 1770, 1777, 1780, 1792, 1796, 1808, 1813.
Civil and ecclesiastical powers tried to replace the indigenous peoples' opaque and 'idolatrous' practices with other more 'appropriate' behaviors-shows of obedience and acquiescence. This clearly involved the transformation of the relationship between space, time, and cultural practice. The church tried to impose itself as the sole locus of the 'sacred' and organized religious and secular life both spatially and temporally. All indigenous peoples were ordered to live in town with "a good church, and one only, to which all may come." The litany of prohibitions sought to impose new (segregated) spatial practices and make visible the new social hierarchy: "Indians must not live off in the forests [c] under pain of whipping or prison," "the caciques shall not hold gatherings, nor go about at night, after the bells are sounded for the souls in purgatory," "All people must bend the knee before the sacrament," "no baptized person shall possess idols, sacrifice any animals, draw blood by piercing their ears or noses, nor perform any rite, nor burn incense thereto, or fast in worship of their false idols," "no dances shall be held except in daytime," "all bows and arrows are to be burned," "Towns must be in Spanish fashion, have guest-houses, one for Spaniards and another for Indians," "No negro, slave or mestizo shall enter any village save with his master, and then stay more than a day and night."
These edicts sought to limit the indigenous people's capacity for movement, economic independence, self-expression, community building, and they attempted to simplify surveillance in order to control visible behaviors. Changes in the patterns sought to interrupt what Maurice Halbwach called "the social framework of memory" (27). Under attack, of course, is the understanding, as Roach puts it, that "expressive movements [function] as mnemonic reserves, including patterned movements made and remembered by bodies" (26). Anything that recalled past behaviors was to be avoided, as was anything that complicated visible categorization and control. The finely honed racial categories put forward in the 16th century through the Inquisition-with its categorization of mestizos, mulattos, moriscos, zambos among others -- participated in the development of techniques for visual control. The many edicts against all sorts of performance practices-from the danced songs or areitos to the 'secret' gatherings-conveyed the recognition that they functioned as an episteme, "a way of thinking through movement" (Halbwach) as well a conduit for the transmission of memory.
The performance of the prohibitions seem as ubiquitous and continuous and the outlawed practices themselves. Neither disappeared.
IV: Multi-coded Performance
Around the hills there are three or four places where [the Indians] used to make very solemn sacrifices and they came to these places from distant lands. One of these is here in Mexico, where there is a hill called Tepeacac and the Spaniards call it Tepeaquilla, and now it is called Our Lady Of Guadalupe; in this place they had a temple dedicated to the mother of the gods, whom they called Tonantzin, which means our Mother; there they made many sacrifices to honor this goddess and came to her from distant lands from more than twenty leagues, from all the regions of Mexico and they brought many offerings; men and women and young men and young women came to those feasts; there was a great gathering of people on those days and they all said let us go to the feast of Tonantzin; and now that the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built there, they also call it Tonantzin [c] it is something that should be remediedc this appears to be a satanic invention to lessen the idolatry under the equivocation of this name Tonantzin and they come now to visit this Tonantzin from far off, as far off as before, which devotion is also suspicious because everywhere there are many churches of Our Lady and they do not go to themc
Indigenous performances, paradoxically, seem to be transferred and reproduced
within the very symbolic system designed to eliminate them-Roman Catholicism.
Religion proved a vital conduit of social (as well as religious) behavior. The
'transfers' occurred not just in the uneasy tensions between religious systems
but within the religious systems themselves. It was not long before the very
friars who had boasted of early spiritual victory over the conquered suspected
that these new converts were in fact worshipping their old gods in a new guise.
"Offerings to the idols," Sahagun noted, "are clandestinely practiced
under the pretext of the feasts which the Church celebrates to revere God."
Instead of replacing pre-conquest forms of worship, the new rituals allowed
for their continuity; satanic 'equivocation' permitted those kneeling before
Guadalupe to direct their attentions to Tonantzin.
The friars riled against any mixing and overlapping of belief systems, threatening to withhold Christian instruction "until the heathen ceremonies and false cults of their counterfeit deities are extinguished, erased." The equivocal (because multivocal) nature of religious practice led friars to suspect the truthfulness of the native's piety. Insisting on strict orthodoxy, they feared anything in indigenous practice that somehow resembled or overlapped with their own. Duran, in the Book of the Gods and Rites, draws some uneasy comparisons between the Nahua's practice of human sacrifice and Christian communion, noting "how cleverly this diabolical rite imitates that of our Holy Church" (95). He concludes that either the native peoples already knew about Christianity (and were thus heathens, not pagans) or "our cursed adversary, forced the Indians to imitate the ceremonies of the Christian Catholic religion in his own service" (95). Native peoples came to be seen as perpetual performers, engaged in "idolatrous dissembling," "go[ing] about like monkeys, looking at everything, so as to imitate whatever they see people do. Dissembling conveys the deep nervousness experienced by the colonial observer when faced with native performance. The suspicions concerning religious orthodoxy were expressed too as ambivalence concerning mimesis. On the one hand, Europeans from Columbus onwards had praised the native peoples' capacity for imitation and used that to argue that they could be taught to be Christians and take the sacraments. On the other, the mimicry was inappropriate and bestial, "like monkeys." How could the friars tell if their converts were sincere when they bent their knee before the altar? Did the performance of piety confirm Christian devotion?
The religious practices of the various groups of colonizers-Puritanism and Catholicism-affected the ways in which native practices survived. Even as Catholics like Duran equated "Indians" with Jews because of what he saw as the similarities between their religious rites and ceremonies, Catholicism, with its emphasis on images, auto sacramentales, and spectacular ceremonies, was considered by Protestants to border on the idolatrous. Later commentators, such as 19th century ethnologist Charles de Brosse, claimed that the Catholic reliance on images in fact provided the environment in which native belief systems continued to flourish. W.J.T. Mitchell, in Iconology, quotes Willem Bosman's view that Catholicism's "ridiculous ceremonies" linked them to the heathens. And it is clear that the early efforts by evangelists to convert native peoples through the use of religious theatre allowed not only for the creation of a new genre ("missionary theatre"), but for the transmission of native languages, staging techniques, and oppositional practices.
Pre-conquest performances and images continued to be transmitted through multiple syncretic and transcultured forms such as music, dance, the use of color, pilgrimages, the ritualized marking of place (such as small structures known as santopan, i.e., place of the saint) that later came to be called altares but that dated back to pre-Conquest times. Although performed embodied practice might be limited in its reach because the signified cannot be separated from the signifier, the relationship of signifier to signified is not a straightforward one-to-one. The bent knee might signal devotion to the Catholic saint even as it makes manifest continued reverence to a Mexica deity. The act of transfer, in this case, works through doubling, replication, and proliferation rather than through 'surrogation,' the term that Joseph Roach has developed to think about the ways that transmission occurs through forgetting and erasure: "In the life of a community, the process of surrogation does not begin or end but continues as actual or perceived vacancies occur in the network of relations that constitutes the social fabric. Into the cavities created by loss through death or other forms of departure [c] survivors attempt to fit satisfactory alternatives" (2). Roach gives an example of surrogation: The King is Dead, Long Live the King.
Surrogation explains numerous re-iterations that involve a narrowing-down-instead of the two 'royal' individuals, we have the 'one' role, King. The act of substitution claims an ongoingness that erases the antecedent. "King" is a continuous role that endures regardless of the many individuals who might come to occupy the throne. The model of surrogation forgets its antecedents, as Roach reminds us, by stressing seemingly uninterrupted stability over what might be read as rupture, the recognizable 'one' over the particularities of the many.
While Roach's contribution to our thinking about performance as a form of surrogation has been extremely generative, it is equally urgent to note the cases in which surrogation as a model for cultural continuity is rejected precisely because, as Roach notes, it allows for the collapse of vital historical links and political moves. The friars might well have wished that the new approved social behaviors they were imposing on their native population functioned as a form of surrogation. The recent converts, however, may just as readily have embraced these ambiguous behaviors as a way of rejecting surrogation and being able to continue their cultural and religious practices in a less recognizable form. The performance shift and doubling, in this case, preserved rather than erased the antecedents. The proliferations of the signified-the many saints and rituals-tell stories of shaky continuities and even re-imagined connections in the face of historical ruptures. The 'satanic invention' that Sahagun alludes to in the quotation introducing this section allows not only one deity to be worshipped under the guise of another but at the same time as another-a form of multiplication and simultaneity rather than surrogation and absenting.
The widely spreading cult of the Virgen de Guadalupe from the mid 16th century to the present provides one example. Cortes' marched towards Tenochtitlan carrying the banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe de Extremadura. In 1531, the Virgen of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexica recently converted to Christianity, in Tepeyac, the site of the Mesoamerican goddess Tonanztin. The early friars, as I noted, worried that Tonanztin had disappeared only to reappear in the cult of the Virgen of Guadalupe. Had the pre-Conquest goddess been successfully surrogated by the Virgin, or did she in fact live on in the Christian deity? Did the non-interrupted pilgrimage to her shrine signal alliance to the old or to the new? How did she go from being the Virgen of the conquerors to the "dark Virgin" of the conquered, from to the patron of the newly developing 'Mexican' identity (1737), to the Patroness of all Latin America (1910), the Philippines (1935), to the Empress of the Americas (1945)?
[Figure 4, Virgin of Guadalupe, cover Miguel Sanchez, Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Mexico, 1648; Figure 5, Mena, "Imagen de la Virgen de Guadalupe con las armas mexicanas y vista de la Plaza Mayor de Mexico," Coleccion Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Spain. Figure 6, Jose de Ribera y Argomanis. Imagen de jura de la Virgen de Guadalupe como patrona de la ciudad de Mexico. 1778. Coleccion Museo de la Basilica de Guadalupe.] These images illustrate the struggles to identify the Virgen with specific sectors of the population, emphasizing her 'Mexican-ness' by accentuating her proximity to Mexican land (the maguey plant), city-scapes (the Virgen as patron of Mexico City), and peoples (the indigenas). If we look closely at the third of these images, we notice that there are four other appearances of the Virgen in this one canvas-the upper left and upper right corners as well as one on each tip of the eagle's wings. The representational practice of multiplying the images of the Virgen reflects the multiplication of the apparitions themselves. There are innumerable transformations of the Virgen into multiple regionally specific figures. Every area colonized by the Spaniards has a pantheon of Virgenes. And this is in addition to the numerous versions and reported appearances of the Virgen of Guadalupe herself, who is patron of ethnically diverse groups throughout the Americas. This strategy of doubling and staying the same, of moving and remaining, of multiplying outwards in the face of constricting social and religious policies tells a very specific story of oppression, migrations, and re-invention that might be lost if the model of substitution, loss, and narrowing-down were used to explain the 'continuities.'
Embodied performance, then, makes visible an entire spectrum of attitudes and values. The multi-codedness of these practices transmits as many layers of meaning as there are spectators, participants, and witnesses. Sometimes the performances reveal the convergence of religious practice (i.e., adorning the saints with intricate feather work and flowers in the processional paths of Corpus Christi). Sometimes the performance of acquiescence (kneeling at mass, or participating 'appropriately' in a ritual) hides either multiple allegiances (thought by the friars to be irreconcilable) or deep disenfranchisement. At times, the natives performed their idolatry for the audience of suspicious friars, who demanded that the neophytes produce their 'idols' and confess on pain of torture to the continuity of pre-Hispanic rites "as they were used and accustomed to use to do in the time of their heathen past" (Diego de Landa, qtd in Clendinnen, 1987: 194). As protestors at the time pointed out, this demand lead the native peoples into the ridiculous task of "combing the ruins of Coba, more than twenty-five leagues distant, searching for idols" to produce the fictitious evidence (Clendinnen, 1987, 83). At times, the transfer of performance outlasted the memory of their meaning, as populations found themselves faithfully repeating behaviors that they no longer understood. At other times, the 'make believe' quality so commonly attributed to performance offers opportunities for open parody: i.e., a representation in which the actor "who plays the part of Jesus Christ came out of the theatre publicly nude with great indecency and scandal" (Censura y Teatro Novohispano, 260). Many contemporary performances carry on these representational traditions as they continue to form a living chain of memory and contestation. Religious pilgrimages maintain certain kinds of transcultured belief, combining elements from various belief systems. Political performance, for example, might draw from pre-Conquest plots to elucidate contemporary conditions for indigenous populations. Performance artists draw from the repertoire to add historical depth to their political and aesthetic claims. Coatlicue, the mother of Huitzilopochtli, the Nahua's principle deity and god of war, reappears in Astrid Hadad's Heavy Nopal to denounce pollution, unequal north/south relations, oppressive gender and sexual relations, and anything else that occurs to Astrid Hadad as she sings, dances, and delivers her commentaries onstage.
[Figure 7, Astrid Hadad, Coatlicue, from Heavy Nopal. Courtesy of Astrid Hadad].
This study traces some of the issues raised here by focusing on 20th and 21st century performances in the Americas: how does performance participate in acts of transfer, transmitting memories and social identity? How does the scenario of discovery continue to haunt the Americas, trapping even those who attempt to dismantle it (Ch. 2)? How do notions of racial mixing and gender get played out in theories of cultural memory (Ch 3)? How does a radically different archive give rise to a new sense of cultural identity (Ch 4)? How do certain scenarios encourage a 'false identification' that gets used politically (Ch 5)? How do the archive and the repertoire combine to make a political claim (Ch 6)? How does performance participate in the transmission of traumatic memory (Ch 7)? How can performance help us address, rather than deny, structures of inter-cultural indecipherability (Ch 8). "Lost in the Field of Vision" (Chapter 9), traces my own positioning as a 'witness' to the events of 9/11. The final chapter, Hemispheric Perspectives, advocates that we re-map our existing concepts of the Americas and use embodied performance to trace trajectories and forms of interconnectedness.
I draw from my own repertoire for some of the material in this book-my participation in political events, performances, the attack on the World Trade Center. As a social actor, I try to be attentive to my own engagement and investment in the scenarios I describe. Some of the transfers that I've been party to have taken place through 'live' enactments and encounters-those at the Hemispheric Institute's encuentros, in the classroom, in activities I share with colleagues and friends. This book, however, is destined for the archive.