chapter  Chapter 6
14 Pages

Performing as a Moral Act 1

Ethical dimensions of the ethnography of performance
WithDwight Conquergood

Ethnographers study the Diversity and unity of cultural performance as a universal human resource for deepening and clarifying the meaningfulness of life. They help us see performance with all its moral entailments, not as a flight from lived responsibilities. Moral and ethical questions get stirred to the surface because ethnographers of performance explode the notion of aesthetic distance. Most researchers who have extended ethnographic fieldwork into public performance will experience resistance and hostility from audiences from time to time. This disquieting antagonism, however, more than the audience approval, signals most clearly that ethnographic performance is a form of conduct deeply enmeshed in moral matters. Too facile identification with the other coupled with enthusiastic commitment produces naive and glib performances marked by superficiality.