Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

For a verbatim ethnography

Long, Nicholas J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4088-1661 (2015) For a verbatim ethnography. In: Flynn, Alex and Tinius, Jonas, (eds.) Anthropology, theatre and development: the transformative potential of performance. Anthropology, change and development. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK, pp. 305-333. ISBN 9781137350596

[img] Text (Long_for-a-verbatim-ethnography--accepted) - Accepted Version
Download (306kB)


In recent years, documentary theatre – a category of staged performance in which the actual words of real people are edited into a script and performed on-stage by actors – has burgeoned in popularity. Although such productions are rarely driven by concerns that are primarily scholarly or ‘anthropological’, their recent proliferation serves as a timely reminder that theatre can be a powerful and popular medium through which to present ethnographic materials to a public audience. In particular, the ‘verbatim technique’ pioneered by Anna Deveare Smith and subsequently adopted (and adapted) by playwrights such as Alecky Blythe and Dan Canham represents an exciting new possibility for ethnographic representation, perfectly suited to the intellectual needs of an anthropology currently undergoing the ‘affective turn’. Its potential resides in the way it inculcates an ethnographic sociality by instantiating affectively charged relations between and among both audience members and those on stage, allowing anthropological insights to not just be known, but also felt. However, as I show through a discussion of a production that sought to encourage community reflections on their own situation of chronic underemployment, the ‘verbatim theatre’ format carries limitations as well as potential. Deploying a more strictly anthropological sensibility might reap rich rewards in crafting works that are artistically, intellectually, and ethically satisfying.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Palgrave Macmillan
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2019 10:51
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2024 03:05

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics