The Performances of Sacred Places (Book)

Crossing, Breathing, Resisting

Edited by Silvia Battista

Looks at the value, function and role that performance plays in the constitution and activation of special, sacred places. Brings together artistic, theatrical, religious and activist practices with the objective of studying the role that they have in transforming, maintaining, contesting and activating the sacredness of locations. 37 b/w illus.

Category: Performing Arts


This is the first book to explore the notion of sacred places from the perspective of performance studies and presents both practice-as-research accounts alongside theoretical analysis. It is multidisciplinary, bringing together religious studies, philosophy and anthropological approaches under the umbrella of performance studies. By focusing on practice and performance rather than theology it also expands the notion of sacred places to non-religious contexts.

This new collection offers a multi-layered and contemporary approach to the question of sacred sites, their practices, politics and ecologies. The overarching critical framework of inquiry is performance studies, a multidisciplinary methodological perspective that stresses the importance of investigating the practices and actions through which things are conducted and processes activated. This is an innovative perspective that recognizes the value, function and role that practices and their materialities have in the constitution of special places, their developments in culture, and the politics in place for the conservation of their sense of specialness. 

The questions investigated are: what is a sacred place? Is a place inherently sacred or does it become sacred? Is it a paradigm, a real location, an imaginary place, a projected condition, a charged setting, an enhanced perception? What kind of practices and processes allow the emergence of a sacred place in human perception? And what is its function in contemporary societies?

The book is divided into three sections that evidence the three approaches that are generally engaged with and through which sacred places are defined, actualized and activated: Crossing, Breathing and Resisting. There is a strong field of international contributors including practitioners and academics working in the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland and Australia.

Primary interest will be students, academics and practitioners studying or working in theatre and performance studies; fine art; architecture; cultural and visual studies; geography; religious studies; and psychology.

Potential for classroom use, and very strong potential for inclusion on reading lists as a secondary text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in fine art, live art, performance art, performance and theatre studies.

Dr Silvia Battista is a visual and performance artist/scholar, who has engaged, over the last twenty years, with a multidisciplinary set of artistic languages - performance, drawing, photography, video - and research methodologies - hermeneutics, phenomenology and semiotics. Her research lies in the intersection between visual art, performance, installation and improvisation, particularly in the study of meditative, contemplative and ecstatic practices/technologies employed for creative and epistemological purposes. She researches, teaches and publishes on contemporary performance and art, religion and spirituality involving audiences, readers and students to reflect on perception, ecology and our relation to inner and outer environments. She is the co-convenor of the research group Performance, Religion and Spiritualities of the International Federation of Theatre Research and her latest monograph Posthuman Spiritualities in Contemporary Performance: Politics, Ecologies and Perceptions was published in 2018 by Palgrave. 

The Performances of Sacred Places: An introduction
Silvia Battista

Part I – Crossing

Chapter I
A place that stands Apart: Emplacing, re-imaging and transforming life-events through walking-performance in rural landscapes
Louise Ann Wilson

Chapter II
Bordering the sacred: The labyrinth as non-site
Kris Darby

Chapter III
In peril & pilgrimage: Exploring the experience of suffering in journeys endured
Simon Piasecki

Part II – Breathing

Chapter IV
Acting atmospheres: The theatre laboratory and the numinous
Ilaria Salonna

Chapter V
Holding out: The sacred space of suspense and sustainable ethics
Annalaura Alifuoco

Chapter VI
The introspective theatre of spirits read Foucault: The digital space, the inner gaze and the sacred landscape
Silvia Battista

Part III – Resisting

Chapter VII
Performing on the tightrope: Sacred place, embodied knowledge and the conflicted history of colonial modernity in the Welsh and Khasi relationship
Lisa Lewis

Chapter VIII
Performing memorials as intervening grounds
Ruth L. Smith

Chapter IX
Sacred space and occupation as protest: Jonathan Z Smith and Occupy Wall Street
Joshua Edelman


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