LE SON DE LA VOIX ET LES ARTS DE LA PAROLE

L'émergence du concept de performance
en anthropologie linguistique

2 novembre 2017

Le concept de performance est inventé dans trois disciplines différentes entre 1965 (quand Noam Chomsky publie Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Cambridge MA, MIT Press) et 1977 (quand paraît la version définitive de Richard Bauman, Verbal Art as Performance, Prospect Heights IL, Waveland): 1°) en linguistique (Chomsky), 2°) en anthropologie symbolique (Victor Turner) qui prend toute sa force à la faveur du tournant post-moderne de l'anthropologie, et 3°) en anthropologie linguistique et dans l'ethnographie de la parole (Dell Hymes, Bauman). C'est la convergence de ces trois inventions qui produisit le cadre théorique dans lequel nous nous situons aujourd'hui en anthropologie linguistique. Sur la place que Chomsky, dans son modèle cognitif de la faculté de langage, réservait à la performance, voir sur ce site la page Compétence et performance.

Par rapport au modèle cognitif de Chomsky, une double rupture se produisit simultanément au tournant des années 1970, d'une part en anthropologie symbolique dans l'œuvre de Victor Turner (The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure, Chicago: Aldine Pub., 1969; Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society, Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1974), et de l'autre en anthropologie linguistique. Dans un petit livre de synthèse publié vingt ans plus tard, Turner explique comment, selon lui, la performance s'articule à la cognition:

With the postmodern dislodgement of spatialized thinking and ideal models of cognitive and social structures from their position of exegetical preeminence, there is occurring a major move towards the study of processes, not as exemplifying compliance with or deviation from normative models both etic and emic, but as performances. Performances are never amorphous or openended, they have diachronic structure, a beginning, a sequence of overlapping but isolable phases and an end. But their structure is not that of an abstract system; it is generated out of the dialectical oppositions of processes and of levels of process. In the modern consciousness, cognition, idea, rationality, were paramount. In the postmodern turn, cognition is not dethroned but rather takes its place on an equal footing with volition and affect. Victor Turner, The Anthropology of Performance, New York, PAJ Publications, 1987, p. 80.

L'histoire du concept de performance en anthropologie linguistique commence en 1971 quand Dell Hymes reprend à son compte certains des emplois du mot anglais performance qui s'imposent à l'époque dans la folkloristique américaine et qui opèrent un déplacement du texte à l'événement de parole. Plus précisément, le centre d'intérêt n'est plus le texte (du conte) ou la partition (musicale) mais «l'événement de communication» (the communicative event). Dans l'article de 1971 cité ci-dessous, il faut distinguer deux sens du mot articulés entre eux: la performance [sens 1] comme événement structuré et la performance [sens 2] comme comportement stylisé.

Dell Hymes, The Contribution of Folklore to Sociolinguistic Research, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol.84, No.331, Toward New Perspectives in Folklore (Jan.–Mar., 1971), pp.42–50; spéc. 45–46.

Abrahams has a somewhat different focus, one linking the notion of performance as a structured event to performance as stylized behavior. When he specifies the components of the esthetic performance as "performance, item, and audience," he seems to have in mind a structured event, entailing reciprocity (mutual participation between performer and audience as the general focus), with the stylized behavior of the performer also designated ''performance'' in a more specific sense. Such usage of a term on two levels of generality is common in science as well as in daily life; compare the use of "grammar" both for the general object of linguistic description and for a component of it distinct from phonology. […]

The term "context" takes on a new meaning, or new force in this regard. To place a text, an item of folklore, in its context is not only to correlate it with one or more aspects of the community from which it came. Or if that is what "context" means, then the new direction goes beyond a merely "contextual" approach. It is not content to take folkloristic results on the one hand and results of other studies on the other, each independently arrived at, and then to try to relate the two after the fact. It wishes to study the relation between folkloristic materials and other aspects of social life in situ, as it were, where that relation actually obtains, the communicative events in which folklore is used.

Dans l'œuvre de Dell Hymes, cet emprunt du concept de performance aux études de folklore s'est croisée avec la critique décisive du concept de «compétence linguistique» inventé par Noam Chomsky en 1955 et de la distinction qu'il avait établie en 1965 entre compétence et performance.


Richard Bauman and Charles L. Briggs, Poetics and Performance As Critical Perspectives On Language and Social Life, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol.19 (1990): 59-88.
Sandra Bornand et Cécile Leguy (Sous la direction de), Compétence et performance. Perspectives interdisciplinaires sur une dichotomie classique, Paris, Karthala, 2014.
Richard Bauman, Verbal Art as Performance, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 77, No. 2 (June 1975), pp.290–311.
Richard Bauman, Verbal Art as Performance [1977], nouvelle édition augmentée, Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1984.