Dramaturgy and post-structuralism
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The relationship between dramaturgy and post-structuralism—the subject of this chapter—is an uneasy one. Now, Goffman’s work to be sure has vastly appealed to both postmodernists and post-structuralists for various reasons—chiefly because of its emphasis on ephemeral appearances and its unique approach to signification, individual agency, and social structure (e.g. see Battershill 1990; Ticineto Clough 1990). Moreover, the performative dimensions of dramaturgy have long been congruent with other performative approaches, such as speech-act theory, long en vogue within post-structuralist theory. However, the true uneasiness arising from a combination of dramaturgy and post-structuralism today comes from the evolution of post-structuralism itself. Writing about post-structuralism in 2012, is infinitely more difficult than it already was at the time of the diffusion of post-structuralist ideas across the social sciences in the 1990s. Post-structuralism today is an amorphous creature which finds its home everywhere and nowhere in particular (see Davis 2007; Lechte 2009). It is also an eclectic being which derives its multifaceted identity—if it any longer finds one at all—by continuously reinventing itself through the theoretical flavor of the day. So, while dramaturgy has remained relatively stable, post-structuralism is more than ever before a schizoid, evanescent entity, and to talk about a “post-structuralist approach to dramaturgy” would mean, inevitably, to commit a sin of partiality. With this said allow me to claim the virtue of partiality from the very beginning and not speak of Post-Structuralism with capital initials, but rather of a—one of many—post-structuralist perspectives in particular: non-representational theory. The purpose of this chapter shall therefore be that of borrowing inspiration from non-representational theory in order to engender new dramaturgical ideas, research subjects, and orientations. I do so not because I feel that dramaturgy needs to be made more fashionable by mixing it with a hot theoretical trend, but because any combination of flavors—whether it is food, drink, music, or whatever—is meant to create something new and worth a sampling taste. This unique flavor—which I shall call a non-representational dramaturgy—will hereby be served in six doses, named performance, more-than-human subjectivity, weaving, vitality, transformation, and assemblage. Each of these six servings—the sections in which this chapter is divided—will be cooked up on the basis of a more-or-less constant recipe: I will begin by outlining a central focus and principle of dramaturgy, then introduce its non-representational cognate, and finally blend the two in a way I hope offers an innovative approach. The usual disclaimers of course apply. First, my treatment of a non-representational (let alone post-structural) dramaturgy cannot be exhaustive or comprehensive here. Second, my ideas are not meant to be orthodox or representative of all those scholars who are aiming to bring post-structuralism to bear on dramaturgical principles. And third, any mixing of different ingredients will cause me to sacrifice some of the original flavors, and occasionally even cause a stomach ache. Let us begin with an all-too-brief introduction to non-representational theory.