Performance, Religion, and Spirituality
The PRS working group examines the interconnection between the forms and impulses of religion, spirituality, and theatrical performance, attending to the ways performance and spiritual life have come into conversation, cooperation, and conflict, both historically and in the present.
PRS wishes to place its work at the intersection of the scholarly traditions of theatre studies and the study of religion. Both are committed to the critical inquiry of their material, and both are committed the joint participation of scholars from all corners of the world. This group is open to members from all national and cultural backgrounds, and it interests itself in the world’s religious, spiritual, and performative traditions.
Spirituality, religion and performance are, in our view, sets of social and cultural practices that have a profound and long-lasting importance to those involved in them. Because these practices are so important, we are committed to a nonsectarian inquiry of them. We assume no particular faith or religious affiliation for our members or our work.
PRS members, members of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), and members of the Religion and Theatre Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) edit Ecumenica, a peer-reviewed journal that twice annually publishes scholarship concerning theatre, performance, and religion. www.ecumenicajournal.org
PRS members and members of the Religion and Theatre Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) have founded the journal PRS – Performance, Religion and Spirituality. The journal’s inaugural number is to be published October 2017. prsjournalorg.wordpress.com
Performance, when used as a part of religious life, frequently both serves to construct and define a religious community, and depends on the support of that community for its meaning and vitality. Performance is a key means by which religious communities are maintained and renewed, and it is also frequently used as a means through which to challenge them. When religion is affirmed performatively – as opposed to by doctrine or belief – the ways in which it is deeply bound up with the patterns and affects of community are often readily apparent. When aesthetic performance makes use of religious material or gesture, it often does so to make use of or interrogate the communitarian nature of its audience. Similarly, radical performance also often offers a potent means of critiquing the constitution or practices of religious communities; it can, for instance, challenge exclusions or taboos, or propose new models of worship and devotion for communities to take up. And finally, contemporary political theory has begun to recognize the importance of religion and religious performance in the formation of the kind of strong social bonds, which can serve as a strong basis for a democratic society. Read more