The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Men, Objects, and Bodies in Performance: Exploring the Intersection of Performing Arts Studies and the Anthropology of Materiality

Joint Research Coordinator YOSHIDA Yukako

Reserch Theme List


performing arts, material things, bodies


Since the 1980s, anthropology has moved beyond simply examining how objects are used by humans, and the way in which humans assign meaning and value to them. Contemporary anthropology now seeks to examine the processes that form through events generated by the interaction between humans and objects, as well as how objects work on humans. Similarly, the issue of how materiality relates to these processes is gaining in importance. This study seeks to uncover new vantage points within research on the performing arts by highlighting the interest shown in the "anthropology of materiality". The performing arts discussed here range from so called "folk art" to contemporary art. This study also examines the environment surrounding the human body and the performances people give. The primary objective of this study is to redefine the performing arts as a sphere of activity woven together by humans and objects, and to use this definition to consider how objects relate to human expression and transmission of art form.
Attention is also paid to the various characteristics of performing arts, such as the interpenetrative ways humans and objects are "brought together" (such as by masks, musical instruments, or the bodies of others), as well as the processes by which interaction with objects stimulates the imagination and creativity. The second objective is to further the advancement of anthropology by examining the characteristics of the relationship that plays out between humans and objects within the realm of motion, sound, and story.