Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance

Donnalee Dox
Reveals what might be gained by taking spirituality seriously as a constituent aspect of performance 


Performance has become a paradigm for analyzing contemporary culture, a pattern that structures a particular view of human interaction and experience. Performance is also widely used to better understand how we express values and ideas, including religious beliefs. Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance asks how the sensibilities of religious experience, which many people call spirituality, shape people's performance. When we observe people performing words, dances, music, and rituals they consider sacred, what (if any) conclusions can we draw about their experiences from what we see, read, and hear? By analyzing performances of spirituality and what people experience as "spirit," this book adds a new dimension to the paradigm of performance.

Rather than reducing the spiritual dimension to either biology or culture, Donnalee Dox asks what such experiences might have to offer a reasoned analysis of vernacular culture. The specific performances presented are meditative dance and shamanic drumming, including descriptions of these practices and exegesis of practitioners' writings on the nature of spiritual experience and performance.

“An ambitious and provocative study. Dox’s rigorous and innovative analysis challenges performance scholars to rethink how we approach questions of spirituality.”
—Henry Bial, University of Kansas

“Intellectuals have tended to dismiss people’s spiritual experiences by reducing them to public ritual spaces, to forms of cultural theft, to colonial history, to economics and capitalism, to narcissism and dilettantism. These processes are important to analyze, but is that all there is? The author’s answer is a definitive ‘No.’ The basic model here is performance studies, a field that assumes to know anything is to show it, so that others can see it happening. What to do, then, with the invisible, which, by nature, cannot be shown or known in a public way? Through detailed studies of two contemporary meditation practices and their founders, this book reveals how insufficient various materialist methodologies are to understanding the interior, life-changing, and often extreme experiences of the spiritual … Reckoning with Spirit is an especially powerful and effective tour de force.”
—Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University

Illustration: © Tom Gowanlock / Veer
Donnalee Dox is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 282pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2016
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07297-2

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  • $94.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2016
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05297-4

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  • $39.95 U.S.

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