Analogous states: John Millington Synge, Zora Neale Hurston, and the performance of ethnography
Mouton Kinyon, Chanté
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The thesis presents J. M. Synge and Zora Neale Hurston as autoethnographic researcher-practitioners who employed important cultural forms in their theatre, such as the keen and the cakewalk, in order to challenge the representational caricatures that contributed to the racialization of both the Irish and African Americans. Using ethnographic material, Synge and Hurston locate such performative rituals in their proper cultural contexts, thereby giving a representation of them that audiences might consider authentic, while also writing against the stereotypes associated with the cultures under discussion. Yet Synge and Hurston’s claims to authenticity and cultural intimacy, through the use of ethnographic practices, is undermined as the material created was intended for the theatre, an artificial space. Thus, Synge’s and Hurston’s flawed research practices reveal moral binds of performance ethnography as cross-cultural studies was becoming a significant aspect of anthropology prior to the development of performance studies. This intervention not only impacts the fields of Irish studies and African American studies but also has broader implications in performance studies. Further, this project has the potential to impact the way in which cultural anthropologists incorporate literary criticism and theory into their work.