Volume 21 Number 22 August 14, 2020

More than Words: Performance Ethnography as a Research Method that Values a Sustained Ethnographic Orientation and Imaginative Theatre-making

Jane Bird
The University of Melbourne, Australia

Citation: Bird, J. (2020). More than words: Performance ethnography as a research method that values sustained ethnographic orientation and imaginative theatre-making. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 21(22). Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.26209/ijea21n22.


Performance ethnography is a form of performed research that creates a theatrical representation of ethnographic inquiry. Walford (2009) proposes that frequently performance ethnographers neglect traditional ethnographic practices such as participant observation and substantial time in the field. This paper draws on research which investigated the practices of a performance ethnographer who adopted a sustained ethnographic orientation throughout the interconnecting phases of fieldwork, analysis, interpretation and representation (Wolcott, 1995). The paper considers how these practices influenced, shaped and enhanced the researcher’s theatre making practices. The research revealed that the embodied and tacit knowledge generated through a performative approach to ethnographic inquiry lends itself to a layered and rich style of theatre making that involves more than a transference of verbatim text into a script. This paper documents the performance ethnographer’s commitment to sustained ethnographic processes as she synthesizes detailed and complex insights into an action-based, artistic theatrical representation.

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