Material Culture and the Magical Power of Dance Objects

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    This paper takes up the call by scholars such as Alfred Gell to consider objects of material culture as objects, by examining them in the context of production, circulation and reception. Because they are unadorned and without visual interest, langarol, the hand-held artefacts used in some New Ireland dance performances, do not lend themselves to modes of analysis that see cultural objects as surrogate texts, the hidden meanings of which can be 'read'. This very 'lack' enables us more readily to discern their significance, which lies in their magical potency and in the performance of their creator, the shaman, in attracting, wielding and revealing his awesome power. The power sought is less power over others and more power to - the ability to realise projects that can elicit effects. If consciousness and body are one, such achievements are to be understood as embodiments of intentionality and agency. It is through the production and wielding of such objects that people make themselves.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)250-262
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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