Capacity for character

Fiction, ethics and the anthropology of conduct

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Jonas Tinius Humboldt‐Universität zu Berlin

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Method acting is one of the most popular theatrical rehearsal systems, according to which actors seek intense identification with characters. In this article, I draw on fieldwork with a professional contemporary German theatre to suggest an alternative view. Rather than training to merge with characters, actors understand characters as a ‘repertoire of fiction’ they freely draw upon to compose themselves. Training for characters thus facilitates the to detach and appropriate traits of different, imagined and real, persons. It is thus an active and reflected stance that minds the gap between actor and character, rather than a passive and predominantly embodied taking on by actors of fictional characters and their traits. Informed by discussions on the notion of conduct in the anthropology of ethics, this article investigates how training the ‘capacity for character’ can inform anthropological understandings of detachment, reflexivity and personhood.

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