April 2006: International Workshop on Strange Convergences:
International Workshop on
Strange Convergences: Performance and Performativity
in Fantasy Game Cultures, the Gothic Milieu,
and Pagan Spirituality
27 – 28 April 2006
Drs. Marinka Copier (Institute for Media and Re/Presentation, Utrecht University)
Dr. Martin Ramstedt (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences
Joan Muyskenweg 25
1096 CJ Amsterdam
Registration and Registration Fee
For the workshop, we have specifically solicited international speakers and discussants. No open call for papers has therefore been announced. It is however possible for external visitors to attend the lectures and participate in the ensuing discussions. Interested persons are requested to register with
until April 24, 2006 !
The registration fee for external visitors will be 60 €, covering both days. It is also possible to register for either day, in which case the registration fee will be 30 €.
Please transfer the money to the following bank account
ABN AMRO Bank
bank account no.: 188.8.131.520
For transfers from abroad:
IBAN code: NL83ABNA0436465310
BIC code: ABNANL2A
Please, add "6058 Symposium M. Ramstedt" as reason for transfer!
All communication regarding issues of travel accommodation, the program and individual papers should be addressed to
Marinka Copier: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Ramstedt: email@example.com
Introduction to the topic and theoretical focus of the workshop
Three years ago, the conveners of this workshop started a three-year survey of the annual ElfFantasy Fair and related events, such as the Castlefest and the Mid-Winter Fair, in the Netherlands. The ElfFantasy Fair is by far the largest among the three and in fact the largest event of its kind in the whole of Europe. The first ElfFantasy Fair in 2001 attracted 7.500 visitors, the second 12.000 visitors, the third 18.000 visitors, the fourth 20.000 visitors and the one in 2005 some 21.400 visitors. All these festivals and fairs attest to a convergence of and inter-textual relations between the imaginary worlds of the Fantasy games culture, the neo-romantic Gothic milieu, and modern Pagan spirituality. The forthcoming workshop is dedicated to a further exploration into these "strange convergences".
Qualitative fieldwork quickly informs the "sensuous" researcher (as to 'sensuous scholarship' as a methodological approach see further down below) that these different imaginary worlds each have their own conceptual framework, promise and morality, aesthetics, etiquette and style. Yet, they are all entered by way of performance, in which the same cultural archive is drawn upon, and in which similar embodied repertoires are negotiated that oscillate between ritual and play. The participants in these worlds seem to form intersecting network-communities or modern tribes (Maffesoli) based on a shared sensitivity, while particular tastes might differ.
The imaginary world of the Fantasy Game cultures is greatly influenced by Tolkien's work, especially The Lord of the Rings. The first commercial fantasy role-playing game (RPG) was in fact Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), created in 1973 by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) run by Gary Gygax and Donald Kaye. At the time, both Gygax and Kaye were members of the Castles and Crusade Society, an informal organization of people interested in medieval warfare. Their greatest source of inspiration, however, was The Lord of the Rings. D&D was launched the year after and is still popular today. It caught on so well that it became the matrix for most Fantasy RPGs of our time. They now comprise different subgenres (Digital RPG, Table-top RPG, Life Action Role-Play or LARP), which can be distinguished according to range of choice during the game on the part of the participants and different degrees of immersion. Some of the games as well as some of the gamers aim at such a high degree of realism in play that it almost turns into a kind of "collective Rorschach test" (Fine), bordering on the divinatory. It is here, perhaps, where we find the strongest parallel to modern Pagan spirituality.
Shunning easy identity-tags from "the real world", Gothic tribes seek to enact a fluid and languid "dark world" (Jasper) in temporary zones, such as parties and balles du masques. Participants express non-discursive sentiment and sensuality, inspired by dark romanticism from the 18th and 19th Century, in the way they are dressed, the way they move, and the way they interact. Their performance is highly stylized – if not ritualized – and always referring to something ineffable which can only be "felt" (Jasper). While direct references to certain spiritual movements are usually absent, allusions to a medieval, yet strangely inverted mysticism abound in Gothic music, poetry, imagery and style.
Modern Pagan ritual networks on their part are strongly influenced by neo-Celtic initiatory traditions, such as Wicca, Druidry or Reclaiming. Yet, they are largely actualized in public, in acts of social protest and ecological activism as well as at festivals and fairs, which have a strong element of ritual performance. Outside the rituals proper, Pagans usually perform their identity in poetry, music, dance, dress, tattoos and accoutrements inspired by pagan cultures from all over the world, but especially by "Celtic" or "Nordic" tradition. Many Pagans have a penchant for both the Gothic milieu and Fantasy, often engaging in Fantasy RPG too. This is not surprising given the fact that, historically, modern Paganism evolved in the late 18th Century in the field of literature and art. Its origin and development has thus been entangled with that of the Fantasy genre and the Gothic novel. Pagan spirituality is moreover not theology-minded, almost non-discursive, allowing for both literal and metaphorical readings of the symbolical forms it employs. The latter comprise historical symbols as well as personal inventions. This again attests to the high degree of intersection of ritual and play in modern Paganism.
While Fantasy game cultures, the Gothic milieu and Pagan spirituality heavily draw on historical cultures and ambience, especially from medieval and pre-Christian times, they create new, alternative "worlds" situated in the imaginary realm. They moreover engage in cultural practices characterized by both ritualization and weak ritual coherency (VoÃŸkamp). They thus invite a large degree of "chaos" and "experiment", which in turn attests to a strong penchant for possibility rather than "reality". It is this utopian element (VoÃŸkamp) in all these modes of performance that makes them transcend both ritual and play. Bearing some kind of spiritual promise, they thus perhaps constitute a new mode of cultural practice altogether. This will be a major point for discussion for all the participants in the workshop.
Theoretical and methodological orientation
The workshop is dedicated to the discussion of genuine research on the performative aspects of ritual and play in the context of the Fantasy games culture, Pagan spirituality and the related neo-tribal networks of the Gothic milieu. This general approach entails a general emphasis on the bodily and material dimensions of the respective cultural fields and, more specifically, attention to vernacular visuality (Mitchell). The performative construction of the body ('hexis', Bourdieu and Roodenburg), that is, "self-fashioning" (Gebauer and Alkemeyer) and vernacular visuality forms the point of departure for an understanding of how network communities are actualized both in physical as well as virtual arenas (Wulf).
In order to divine the respective modes of perception and sensitivity encouraged by the different styles of self-fashioning, the researcher has to fully expose his or her senses to the emic aisthesis (Howes, Welsch), allowing confrontation with his or her bodily habits which needs to form part of methodological reflection. Sensuous scholarship (Stoller) promises a better understanding of the largely non-verbal codes that constitute modern tribes.
Goal of the workshop
The goals of the workshop are fourfold:
(1) To contribute new insights into the still salient debate on the boundaries and inter-connectedness between 'play' and 'ritual' from a performative perspective;
(2) To understand how the imagined network communities, described above, are actualized on the basis of archive, repertoire and shared sensitivity;
(3) To provide a more profound thick description of the aesthetics of the abovementioned imagined network communities on the basis of "sensuous scholarship" (David Howes, Paul Stoller).
(4) The revised papers of the workshop will be published in a well-structured and coherently argued volume (potential publishers: Amsterdam University Press, and Berg, with whom negotiations have already commenced). The book will also contain the comments and reflections of the discussants.
The participants comprise international researchers from an interdisciplinary background. Both paper presentations and discussants are specially solicited on the basis of genuine research (see also the selective bibliography further down below) and theoretical perspective (peformance and performativity, sensuous scholarship).
Contact addresses of paper presenters
Drs. Marinka Copier
Institute Media and Re/Presentation
Faculty of Arts
Kromme Nieuwegracht 46
NL-3512 HJ Utrecht
Dr. Isabella van Elferen
Department of Cultural Studies
Faculty of Arts
Kromme Nieuwegracht 46
NL-3512 HJ Utrecht
P.O. Box 240 81
14 50 Stockholm
Prof. Dr. Gary Allen Fine
Department of Sociology
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
1810 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60208
Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science
Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Amsterdam
O.Z. Achterburgwal 185
Dr. Kurt Lancaster
Dr. Andy Letcher
Oxford Brookes University
4A Hayfield Road
Oxford OX2 6TT
Dr. Daniel Mackay
Department of English
University of Oregon
1286 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1286
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1081
NL-1081 HV Amsterdam
Institute Media and Re/Presentation
Faculty of Arts
University of Utrecht
Kromme Nieuwegracht 46
NL-3512 HJ Utrecht
Dr. Martin Ramstedt
P.O. Box 94264
1090 GG Amsterdam
Contact addresses of discussants
Dr. Stef Aupers
Cyberspace Salvations Project
P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
Drs. Marianne van den Boomen
Institute Media and Re/Presentation
Faculty of Arts
Kromme Nieuwegracht 46
NL-3512 HJ Utrecht
Dr. Marion Bowman
Department of Religious Studies
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
Dr. Irene Stengs
Contact addresses chairs
Dr. Peter Jan Margry
Dr. Theo Meder
Prof. Dr. Herman Roodenburg
Thursday, 27 April 2006
9.00 – 9.30 Registration and Coffee and Tea
9.30 – 9.45 Welcome
• Hans Bennis (Director of the Meertens Institute)
• Herman Roodenburg (Head of the Ethnology Department, Meertens Institute)
• Marinka Copier and Martin Ramstedt (Conveners)
9.45 – 10.45 Keynote
• The Imaginary and the Performative by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Institut für
Theaterwissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin
10.45 – 11.00 Coffee and Tea Break
11.00 – 12.00 • Converging Plays of Identity by Marinka Copier, Martin Ramstedt and Roxanne
Discussant: Marianne van den Boomen, Institute for Media and Re/Presentation, Utrecht University
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch at Cafeteria
13.00 – 15.00 1. Panel: Fantasy Game Cultures
Chair: Theo Meder, Meertens Institute
• The Imaginary Entertainment Environment Today, Or I.E.E. version 2.2: The Origin
Story by Daniel Mackay, English Department, University of Oregon
• Frames and Games by Gary Allen Fine, Department of Sociology,
• Role-Play in the MMORPG World of Warcraft by Marinka Copier, Institute for Media and
Re/Presentation, University of Utrecht
Discussant: Stef Aupers, Department of Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam
15.00 – 15.15 Coffee and Tea Break
15.15 – 16.15 Interlude
• Possession by Martin Ericksson
16.15 – 17.00 • Concluding discussion (first day)
17.30 – 18.30 Drinks in local pub
From 18.30 Dinner at local restaurant
Friday, 28 April 2006
9.30 – 10.00 Coffee and Tea
10.00 – 12.00 2. Panel: The Gothic Milieu
Chair: Herman Roodenburg, Meertens Institute
• Performing Deviation: Goth Identities in West- and East-German Musical Subcultures by
Isabella van Elferen, Department of Cultural Studies, Utrecht University
• The Gothic Milieu and Its Black Sun: Dark Aesthetics, Sensuous Scholarship, and Cultural
Critique by Agnes Jasper, Department of Cultural Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Discussant: Irene Stengs, Meertens Institute
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch at Cafeteria
13.00 – 15.00 3. Panel: Pagan Spirituality
Chair: Peter Jan Margry, Meertens Institute
• 'A Wandering Minstrel, I': Medievalism, Performance and Identity in Alternative Cultures
and Spiritualities by Andy Letcher, independent scholar
• From Cerridwen's Cauldron: Mythical Identities in Dutch Neo-Paganism by Hanneke
Minkjan, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit,
• Metamorphosis: A Bakhtinian Approach to Fantasy Role Play and Pagan Ritual by Martin
Ramstedt, Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands' Academy of Science, Amsterdam
Discussant: Marion Bowman, Religious Studies Department, The Open University, Milton Keynes
15.00 – 15.15 Coffee and Tea Break
15.15 – 16.15 Plenary discussion starting with a paper by Kurt Lancaster, Fort Lewis College
The second-order interface: restoring embedded behaviors in interactive media narratives
16.15 – 16.30 • Concluding remarks by the conveners
From 16.30 onwards Reception
Marinka Copier, Martin Ramstedt and Roxanne Möllenkramer
A major goal of the paper is to substantiate the porose boundaries between three imaginary pitches for identity play: Fantasy Game Cultures, the Gothic Milieu and Pagan Spirituality. This argument will be backed up by data from surveys, which the authors carried out on four Dutch Fantasy Fairs between 2003 and 2005. Highlighting the benefits of sensuous scholarship, virtual ethnography and network analysis, the paper will further expound five string patterns following from the converging plays of identity observed at the fairs: (1) the issue of masquerade; (2) the issue of myth; (3) the issue of authorship and ownership; (4) the issue of consumption; and (5) the issue of mediality.
Or I.E.E. version 2.2: The Origin Story
The role-playing game is responsible for introducing the idea of the imaginary entertainment environment, or shared world, to the world of commercial entertainment. Always latent in both occidental and oriental mythologies, the role-playing game allowed for the identification of a fictional setting that changes over time (diegetically) and that has those changes communicated to the audience/participants through a variety of media. Throughout the eighties and nineties, the role-playing game influenced commercial entertainment forms in such a way that the consistency of the fictional setting, across media, was emphasized. However, beginning in the late nineties and into the new millennia, a new relationship between the imaginary entertainment environment and commercial entertainment has developed.
As the public for fantasy environments grows larger, imaginary entertainment environments have splintered into different versions. Each version operates according to its own internal laws of consistency, and often violates some aspect of the same imaginary entertainment environment appearing in different media. Inevitably following in the wake of this change have been arguments about the relative canonicity of different contributions to the world. Rather than participating in one self-consistent and dynamic universe, we are introduced to different versions of worlds, often presented as updates to make the world and its characters "relevant" to the present day. By far the most common manifestation of this update is a recasting of the hero or world's "origin story," as can be seen in two 2005 major film releases, Batman Begins and Revenge of the Sith.
The commercial reasons for eschewing participation in a self-consistent universe in favor of changing an environment in an inconsistent manner are numerous. First, in trying to expand the audience for a larger demographic, the producers may be convinced that a particular change will improve the appeal to a larger demographic (the amplification of the role of Arwen in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films being an obvious example). Second, an artist may have compelling aesthetic reasons for making a change. Lastly, a title's reputation may have soured in the eye of even the fans, making a drastic change, even if it means altering consistency, desirable.
No matter the reasons for the change, it is undeniable that the effect on the subculture in question can be contentious. In addition to canonicity wars, the emphasis on "updating" the origin stories can adversely affect the environment's power of engrossment during a role-playing game session. Whereas this has always been a challenge to some extent, the trend in making these changes has exacerbated the threat to the role-playing game community. A hierarchy of art forms (almost always putting film on top) has followed the establishment of imaginary entertainment environment canons, which tends to make fan subcultures more dependent on the commercial-driven film industry.
Using examples drawn from comic books, film, television, role-playing, and fiction, this presentation will explain this trend and also look at instances in which the pressure to ignore an environment's established history has been resisted, such as in Kevin Smith's work on the Spiderman comic book.
Gary Alan Fine
In board games, such as backgammon, dice determine the outcome of sequential action, but in fantasy games, unlike in backgammon, the dice generate actions that could occur in the real world. A roll of six in backgammon means that the player's piece gets to advance six spaces on the board: that same six in fantasy gaming means that a player's character successfully bashes an opponent. While both of these actions are unreal, they are unreal in different ways. In backgammon, the pieces do move six spaces —a physical movement of a material object —but the spaces have no inherent meaning. No physical movement occurs in fantasy gaming, since the actions of characters are internally represented; however, within the framework of the game the bash is a real one, and the character who is bashed is really injured. The world of fantasy gaming and the rules that structure that world do not have physical effects, but the consequences are close simulations of natural interaction. The action is a direct simulation of a hypothetical world rather than, as in backgammon, an indirect simulation enacted in a physical world.
Because fantasy gaming does not have winning as a clearly deﬁned goal, what is the reason for playing? In some ways fantasy gaming represents a pure game in that engross-ment in the game world is the dominant reason for playing. One can play bridge to win and not really care about the cards. Even in a semi-role-playing game such as Diplomacy one may have no interest in the scenario of the game; however, the structure of fantasy gaming requires such engrossment in the created fantasy world. If the player doesn't care about his character then the game is meaningless. Thus players can incorporate anything into the game world provided that it increases their engrossment in the fantasy. Additional frames beyond the players' primary framework must be seen as desirable alternatives in order for the game to continue. First, gaming, like all activity, is grounded in the "primary framework," the commonsense understandings that people have of the real world. This is action without laminations. It is a framework that does not depend on other frameworks but on the ultimate reality of events. Second, players must deal with the game context; they are players whose actions are governed by a complicated set of rules and constraints. They manipulate their characters, having knowledge of the structure of the game, and having approximately the same knowledge that other players have. Players do not operate in light of their primary frameworks —in terms of what is physically possible —but in light of the conventions of the game. Finally, this gaming world is keyed in that the players not only manipulate characters; they are characters. The character identity is separate from the player identity. In this, fantasy gaming is distinct from other games. It makes no sense in chess to speak of "black" as being distinct from Karpov the player (although one can speak of Karpov the player as different from Karpov the man). The pieces in chess ("black") have no more or less knowledge than their animator. However, Sir Ralph the Rash, the doughty knight, lacks some information that his player has (for example, about characteristics of other characters, and spheres of game knowledge out-side his ken such as clerical miracles) and has some information that his player lacks (about the area where he was raised, which the referee must supply when necessary). To speak of a chess knight as having different knowledge from its animator might make for good fantasy but not for meaningful chess.
Mundane shifts of levels occur when the fantasy is interrupted by the pressures of the real world —the ringing telephone, the ordering (and then eating) of a pizza, or the biological needs of participants. These activities generate breaks in the game —and down-key the interaction to the "real world." The "real world" will always intrude, for the gaming structure is not impermeable to outside events. However, the extent to which this down-keying occurs is also a consequence of interest in the game.
To me, the perspective of Fantasy game culture includes Fantasy role-playing games (RPG), the activity of role-playing and the cultural series and activities related to them. Fantasy RPGs could be described as "stages" for the enactment of role-playing. There are different motivations and styles of play, but the main activity of the participants in a tabletop RPG, live-action role-playing game (LARP) or Multi User Dungeon (MUD) is role-playing. Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) however, are an exception to this. Even though these games are based on older analogue and computer-mediated RPGs, they only partly entail role-play; and only a certain part of the players aim to do role-playing in these virtual environments.
The MMORPG World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004) for instance caters to role-players by offering a couple of realms/ servers on which a role-playing policy is be-ing enforced (7 out of 78 English speaking European realms). The policy for instance prohibits verbal or physical harassment towards role-players, it places limits on out of character communication and it forbids the use of non-medieval or non-Fantasy character names.
This paper presents a virtual ethnography of actual play on the role-play server Argent Dawn, from the perspective of the Alliance. The ethnography shows how role-play in a MMORPG takes place in the interplay between the game world, the game structure and the game play. The social dimension of role-play is highlighted in a thick description of the interaction between the individual player and various player communities (both in- and out of character), between various types of role-players and non role-players, entangling different realms such as the virtual environment, the Internet and daily life etc. The aim of the paper is threefold: 1) To present an ethnography of role-play in a MMORPG in the context of other forms of Fantasy role-play, 2) To discuss the moments in which the construction of spaces and identities, through role-play, comes into being and 3) To discuss the practice and ethics of participatory methods in MMORPG research.
This is a workshop about putting the similarities between liminal ritual practice and modern live-action role-playing to practical use. The Possession Model is a work in progress, an experimental role-taking method designed within the IPerG project to facilitate deep but flexible roleplaying in contemporary urban fantasy games. By using methods and ideas from magickal evocation, channeling and sacred theatre the model allows players to move seamlessly between character and private/social persona without breaking diegesis. Central questions of the session include the nature of deep character immersion in relation to cultural possession, comparisons between game and religion, the borders of pervasive roleplaying and the confrontation between game and "reality". The workshop builds on finds from "Prosopopeia Bardo 1 – Where We Fell", the first in a series of fully realized possession-model games. Possible exercises include designing and testing roletaking rituals as well as live street-trials.
Goth Identities in West- and East-German Musical Subcultures
Isabella van Elferen
Being Goth demands a radical embodiment of elements traditionally considered deviant, such as the occult, death and suicide, vampirism, fetishism and sadomasochism. This paper will explore aspects of embodiment and performance of deviance in Goth identities in Germany, where Goth subculture has experienced a significant growth in the past decade. Some remarkable distinctions can be found between East- and West-Germany.
In West-Germany, Gothic tales, music and even lifestyle and identity have seemingly become consumable goods, which can be paid for, utilised and exchanged in accordance with the codes of the 'experience economy'. The individual can choose to still her or his desires for Gothic isolation, Goth dress codes or sexual deviations for one festival weekend and be mainstream, hiphop or anything else afterwards. The consumption and exchange of Goth identity in West- Germany is symptomatic of the transformed notions regarding deviation in capitalist societies: it is no longer regarded as a deviation from a well-defined norm, but rather as a commodifiable desire. Deviant identity has become a social performance, a mask which can be put on and off according to that desire.
In East-Germany, the Goth movement is larger and more persistent; there, however, the adoption of Goth-deviant identities seems to be based on different sentiments than in the West. The economical deceptions following the German unification have led to collective depressions, and the social rejection of 'Ossis' by West-Germans has resulted in a feeling of isolation. These emotions have led to nostalgia ('Ostalgie') for the economical and social securities of the GDR among older East-Germans. The expansion of the Goth subculture in the East can be seen as young East-Germans' reaction to the same circumstances. The feelings of depression, isolation and nostalgia are as characteristic for 'Ossis' as for Goths, and the collective character of Gothic culture provides East-Germans with the sense of group identity that the unified Germany fails to give them. Moreover, whereas their parents think nostalgically of the social norms that ruled the GDR, East-German Goth youth define themselves subversively through the deviations from equally outdated norms. The growth of East-German Goth subculture seems to signify nostalgia for the time when norms and deviations were still clearly discriminated, as opposed to the pluralism of Western capitalism with which East-Germans do not feel at ease.
As music experiences link subjectivity and collectivity, it is an influential force in the formation of identity; the study of Gothic musical culture can therefore offer insights into the development of Gothic identities. This paper will analyse and compare the functions of deviation in the formation of West- and East-German Goth identities in song texts, music and videos, and on the role that 'experience economy' plays in such deviant identities. Through the intermedial analysis of the performative dynamics between musical, textual and visual Gothic objects, the role of these media in the embodiment and performance of Gothic identity can be studied.
Dark Aesthetics, Sensuous Scholarship, and Cultural Critique
My aim is to underline the importance of the full presence of the anthropologist's body in the field; his or her full sensual awareness of smells, tastes, sounds and textures of life among the other (Paul Stoller). I shall discuss the link Michael Taussig describes between sensual perception and the power of mimesis (mime). The mimetic faculty (the capacity to recreate perceived reality and its relationship to alterity) enables one to grasp that which is strange, other, through resemblances and recreations of it.
I shall thus endeavour to 'mime' or evoke the atmosphere at a gothic masked ball, to facilitate a thick description of the sensual dimensions within the gothic milieu: my research field. Combining emic and etic gazes and viewpoints, my reading will be a plea for a more aesthetic (Jojada Verrips) appreciation of fellow human beings than an anaesthecized, disembodied, rationalized, ideologized view of others, in my case, Dutch goths. The combination of text and body/gesture, of analysis and sensibility, will lead to an interpretation that makes sense for both the interpreter and the emic actors in the field under research. Instead of simply describing styles, or using theories on using style as resistance or identity, my aim is to understand why the gothic milieu, in our globalized, commercialised world, is like a 'home' to a numerous amount of insiders.
By familiarizing myself with gothic aesthetics and its concomitant epistemologies, I hope to be able to arrive at the deeper levels and layers of meaning in which the insider's cultural critique is embedded. The goth's emphasis on materiality, surface and ephemerality seems to reflect a darker melancholia. A melancholia which stems from the intolerance of a void, lost meaning, lost ideals, lost connection with the dominant culture. In the words of Julia Kristeva: As long as the object is lost, it is nevertheless powerful, strong and mystic. The poetic, aesthetic realm can be a safe haven for all those that do not find satisfaction in the norms and values of the culture they are living in. Images of dark beauty, of that what is 'dead' to society, of that what is denied or ignored by society, can act to self-styled goths as a cure for their melancholia, which stems from a strong feeling of not relating to mainstream culture.
Finally, I will juxtapose the gothic cultural critique with the 'lighter' aesthetics of the fantasy milieu. I will use citations from interviews, emic and etic observations of ritual and play, images, dress, and fragments from video clips.
Medievalism, Performance and Identity in Alternative Cultures and Spiritualities
The figure of the 'wandering minstrel' has its origins in the troubadours and travelling players of the Middle Ages, but owes much of its current form to the nineteenth-century: in particular, to Romantic constructions of freedom, artistic authenticity and chivalry. Today the figure appears within Pagan spiritualities, Fantasy Game Cultures and Historical Re-enactment, where both elective and elected minstrels and bards perform to a variety of audiences, from co-practitioners to passing tourists. Here, as someone who once self-identified, and even worked semi-professionally, as a modern-day minstrel, I offer emic and etic perspectives on this genre of performance as it appears in Druidry, Eco-Paganism, Medieval Re-enactment and Live Role-Play games. The role of the minstrel, I suggest, provides incumbents with a powerful and lasting belief narrative about which to construct an identity of alterity. Additionally, by skilfully evoking an enchanted, fairytale, medieval past – imagined as a more spiritual, ecologically aware, and simple time than the present – modern minstrels distil, reflect and co-create a sense of neo-tribal identity amongst their audiences.
Mythical Identies in Dutch Neo-paganism
Fantasy, narrative and myth have an important role in neo-paganism. Both the histories of origin of neo-shamanism and Wicca are constructed after mythological narratives. Also the life histories of the participants of these invented traditions are modelled after popular myths and the images of mythical figures. In this paper the representation of neo-pagan identities in the Netherlands is examined after the concept of 'personal mythology.' How function the hero's of different cosmologies as the 'significant others' and how do they converge with the personal myth's of the participators in both neo-shamanism and Wicca in the Netherlands?
A Bakhtinian Approach to the Convergence of Fantasy Role Play and Pagan Ritual
Pointing to the co-emergence of the novel and modern paganism in Europe, the paper uses Bakthin's insights into the development of the novel as a basis for understanding the appearance of the latter. Arguing that fantasy role play takes the development of the novel a step further, the paper then highlights the convergence of and intertextuality between fantasy role play and Pagan ritual. In both "genres" or "frames" a metamorphosis of the actors takes place triggered by immersion and aesthetic performance. As boundaries collapse onto each other, Bakhtin's notion of "carnival" can arguably serve as a prism with which to further explore the converging modes of metamorphosis involved.
restoring embedded behaviors in interactive media narratives
Rather than study a dramatic play —rehearsing the part for weeks with a director and then performing the character on a proscenium stage in front of an audience, the actor-spectator in the multimedia artwork of the future —the spectator-participant-performer —will perform through an interface that activates embedded strips of pre-recorded behaviors —allowing a player to become that character for a while —with all his hopes and fears. If a player begins to care for the character she plays, immersion is guaranteed. Storytelling helps with this, but it is the interface design that ultimately determines how the player will experience her character and the story the character gets involved in.
Selective Bibliography on the Workshop Themes
Blau, Herbert (1990) 1993: 'Universals of performance; or amortizing play', in: Schechner, Richard and Willa Appel (eds.): By Means of performance: Intercultural studies of theatre and ritual, Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press; pp. 250-272.
Brunotte, Ulrike 2003: 'Ritual und Erlebnis:Theorien der Initiation und ihre Aktualität in der Moderne', in: Paragrana 12/1 & 2; pp. 29-53.
Copier, Marinka: 'Connecting Worlds: Fantasy Role-Playing Games, Ritual Acts and the Magic Circle', in: Changing views. Worlds of play. Conference proceedings cd-rom.
Fine, Gary Allen 1983: Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press.
Henn, Alexander 2003: 'Zwischen Gehalt und Gestalt: Ãœberlegungen zum Verhältnis von Ritual und Mimesis', in: Paragrana 12/1 & 2; pp. 67-77.
Hodkinsons, Paul: Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture, Oxford et al.: Berg
Wulf, Christoph and Jörg Zirfas 2003: 'Anthropologie und Ritual: Eine Einleitung', in: Paragrana 12/1 & 2; pp. 11-28.
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