Review of Victor Turner and Contemporary Cultural Performance. Graham St John (eds.), (New York & Oxford: Bergham Books, 2008).

Sandra D’Urso


The collection of papers presented in this book all concede to a ‘vision’ of Victor Turner’s anthropology as highly influential upon the discipline of performance studies, in particular his modelling of ‘liminality’ and how it operates within tribal and modern ritual structures. The book is organised into four parts and the underlying thread running across all sections of the book tells of the anthropological pioneering conducted by Victor and Edith Turner particularly in the area of methodology.

Furthermore the book demonstrates how their nuanced approach to anthropological research has facilitated an extension of the conventional idea of tribal ‘ritual’ across to contemporary Western performative forms and practices. Most of the authors go on to critique certain aspects of Victor Turner’s work, particularly the categorical distinctions he makes between liminal and liminoid cultural forms. Arguably, the applicability of ritual ‘liminality’ within theorisations of Western forms of secular performance becomes academically as well as poetically tenable, (via Turner’s interdisciplinary lead), and is fully capitalised upon in this book.

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