In this assignment, I chose a term, rather than one keyword, that was used in Profeta’s final chapter, Interculturalism. In order to introduce a general definition to the term, I will break down the word into its’ two distinct parts; culture is defined as ‘the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time,’ according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, while affiliate is defined as ‘ to bring or receive into close connection as a member or branch.’ Hence my understanding of cultural affiliation is an amalgamation of these two definitions which is a preferred, close connection to a racial, religious, or social group. Profeta uses this term to examine its’ influence in a dramaturg’s role.
Profeta uses her personal experience, while working with Ralph, to explore the possible limitations of a dramaturg’s cultural affiliations on their work and the profound impact that cultural affiliations can have on the team and audience, alike. Profeta explains that dramaturgs and other collaborators of the team come to the process with a “mix of identities and cultural alignments…which may be expressed in ways conscious and unconscious…all these factors inevitably contribute to the larger ecology of the working process,”(168) conveying her concerns that these factors build the dramaturg’s perspective, which is supposed to be quite neutral, into a slightly biased one which could impact the quality of the work that is finally presented. Profeta’s use of Ralph’s example accentuates this impact as she explains that she “could not divorce (her) discussion from the contexts within which she performed dramaturgical work…she was always the white woman from an American performing arts culture,” (169) which created a biased eye towards her work from collaborators. She further explains how the audience labelled Ralph as that “black choreographer with the white company” (169) which gave him a “reductive reputation” (169) and directly impacted the kind of audience and reviews, that he received. This label was so impactful that it drove Ralph to design the Geography Trilogy as an intercultural piece that comprised of diverse performers and reflected his travels and roots. Profeta explains that even then, her role as the “white female dramaturg”(170) offered a limited difference in this culturally rich piece but I understood her explanation to convey that even in a scenario aimed at Interculturalism, she was in this piece due to her cultural affiliation and that perhaps, a dramaturg’s role has evolved from being a neutral ‘outside eye’ to a biased one, that is accepted and embraced. This anecdote stressed upon the underlying impacts of cultural diversity.
I chose a term rather than one word because I felt that no other word accurately conveyed this meaning and using ‘culture’ alone wasn’t effective enough, in this scenario. I chose this term due to the diverse setting that I’ve been brought up in; having attended an international school and currently studying at a global crossroads such as NYU Abu Dhabi, I’ve grown up in an environment that encourages the embracement of one’s own culture with a certain uncertainty about my own identity and many a times, I might have undermined the strength of this culturally diverse environment. The use of this term and the personal anecdote reminded me of the impact of cultural affiliations and the power of diversity.Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Accessed 7 Jan 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/affiliate. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Accessed 7 Jan 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture.
I thought about this post for quite a while because while Katherine Profeta discusses her consciousness of her subject position in the social sphere and how that is never a neutral perspective — and Lou Cope also noted her subject position but also said that there was some way in which she could be “objective,” neither addressed the way in which living in different places, being affiliated with multiple cultures already destabilizes a subject and puts her or him in an even more interesting position. And then when the situation is like that of NYUAD – where there are so many who have had that same experience – people’s perspectives are shaped not only by cultural affiliation but by the experience of being a transnational subject and by the movement implied in the term. In fact there is never an “objective” perspective, and Profeta’s ethics are highly shaped by the privileges she has experienced and processes as positions of power that she does not want to impose on aesthetics. On the other hand, the thing she points out, is that Ralph Lemon wanted what she – as a singular human being enmeshed in all these power structures — brings to the table. I struggle with that myself when so many of you, my students, have been acculturated in ways that are so different from my own experience. It’s important to recognize what all these perspective bring to the creation of aesthetic work – and then, with that consciousness always in mind, its also important to recognize them as strengths as well that you can bring to the collaboration.