Then I saw… Worshipping gods on stage in South India - Colloquium with Elena Mucciarelli


Mon, 03/12/2018 - 10:00 to 14:45


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Mandel Building, Room 521
Elena Mucciarelli presented a key-study in the analysis of the interrelation between theater and ritual. Trying to qualify these different modalities of reality, she focused on a peculiar ritual that is observed by the Brahmins, the priestly group, of Kerala, in South India. All other castes are not allowed to practice it. The peculiarity of this ritual lies in the fact that it is also enacted on stage during some Kūṭiyāṭṭam theater performances.
Looking at the morphology and syntax of the ritual, it appears that its enactment on stage takes place at the core of a liminal moment; but whereas the liminal phase usually is self-contained and once it ends all goes back to normal, here the reality outside the stage is deeply affected by the theater performance. In fact, once the actor performs this ritual on stage, he is then allowed to practice it also in his everyday life. The social religious setting is thus changed.
It is the new, suspended, ritual that enables the actor to appropriate the religious service as his domestic ritual.
In this case, it is then the stage the space where the every-day ritual is generated, and not the other way around. We could also say that the stage is the space where “reality” is created. This consideration leads to a fascinating set of questions: What is a ritual? When does it starts? Where is the theater? How does this affect the everyday life?