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Embodying places: Making meaning in performance

Pryce, Larissa (2012) Embodying places: Making meaning in performance. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis develops a poetics and practice of place for contemporary performance. A poetics of place explores ways of knowing and making place. It must be prepared to chart new pathways and refresh habitual perspectives. In this thesis, performance poetics involves taking steps toward questioning how it might be possible to rethink place/s anew. A poetics invested in ways of perceiving and making sense of the place-world also, by necessity, needs to consider current conditions and the difficult questions that affect us all (although in very different ways) living in the 21st century where problems and issues concerning place and ‘placelessness’ remain largely unresolved.

Underpinning this poetics are particular ways of thinking about place informed by perspectives from philosophy, phenomenology, geography, history and cultural and critical theory. I draw on a range of place-thinkers, including Edward Casey, Gaston Bachelard, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Carter to explicate a performance poetics sensitive to the inhabiting of place/s. Specifically, it is Casey’s philosophy of place, and his notion of implacement, that is of particular significance as I work towards developing a framework for thinking about and engaging with place/s in performance. Investigating implaced and embodied experience are central to the kinds of critical speculation which, in pursuing the aims of this thesis, I argue, can potentially open up a diverse range of distinct experiences between body and mind, person and place, self and world.

The explorations this thesis generates around ideas of place and ‘placelessness’ have currency in an increasingly fragmented, globalised world. Rather than accepting the negative aspects of ‘placelessness’ and displacement I explore these ideas through detailed analyses of some recent examples of performance and performance research. The responses gleaned from these analyses aim to provoke reflection on past legacies, present conditions as well as the future implications of being in place/s as part of contributing to an awareness of the full significance and importance of this phenomenon. This investigation of place through performance builds a framework for ‘reading’ place/s that calls for other ways of understanding or coming to grips with what it means to inhabit places today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Grehan, Helena and Moody, David
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