Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Orleans Presentation Update

Hello, beautiful ones!

For those who do not know, I presented a paper last weekend on fire festivals at the Popular Culture/American Culture Associations' Joint National Conference last weekend in New Orleans. Special thanks to those of you whom I spoke with at length either on the phone or via email, and thank Everyone for inspiration, both around the fire and particularly through this blog.

Our 15 minutes of fame was in the Ritual and Religion panel of the Festivals and Faires Area of the conference; because I was chairing, I got to go last, after the "Cult of the Good Death in Colonial Mexico City" paper and the "Christian Woodstock" paper. It was an awesome panel! I ended up presenting the all-night fire and fire festivals (note: festivals *specifically* created to be all about the Fire Circle, for lack of a better way of putting it) in the context of Victor Turner's Rite of Passage schema, which is cool, because both the fire circle and the entire festival itself mirror this schema. Liminality, temenos, and communitas (Janet, you're my hero) were major motifs throughout the entire area, so much so that by the time I gave my paper, I had some line about liminality being the new black.

So, using the well-known liminality framework for theory, I concisely defined and explained (as best as I could) "What. We. Do."--without getting into the variations (too much) between circles. My objective was to "bring" (I join others on this, notably Joshua Levin) these fire festivals into the academic dialogue and to see if people were interested in what I had to say.

They were.
In spades.

Mostly because I went last in the panel, about 3/4 of the Q and A session was directed to me. After saying Very Little about what actually happens around the fire besides vague phrases like "personal transformation" and "opening up to the numinous" (!!!) I got questions like:

"So, these festivals sound amazing...can you talk about how the seeming eclectic spirituality of these festivals is both celebrated and yet possibly problematic?"

"Do participants have particular roles that they serve at these festivals and, if so, are they fixed or fluid? For example, are there specific healers or shamans that help lead people through their process through the night?"

"Can you speak to the dynamics between the drummers? I mean, can anyone pick up a drum and play, or is it more hierarchical, based on talent?"

I KID YOU NOT. And that's only three of many questions I got.

So, that says a couple of things to me: 1) I successfully presented all of this in 15 minutes in a way that was accessible and led people to ask, ahem, familiar questions, and 2) Dude, Fire is cool. People were all over it.

So, that's the update--thank you again...and, by the looks of it, I will likely be pestering all of us in the future for more insights and may well go all hard core and get some questionnaires going for future research. We'll see what Joss says about that.

OH--and the Coolest thing?!! About ten minutes before I started my paper, guess who sauntered into the room with a knowing smile on her face?!


Much love and gratitude,



Josselyne said...

Congratulations Lyra, that's AWESOME! I'm so glad to hear you had a positive and successful experience in New Orleans. I was wishing I was there (would have taken you to ACME oyster house afterwards...)

The questions you received certainly do sound familiar, don't they. I wonder what would happen if we asked those questions of ourselves? Hmmmm....

SarahFae said...

You are so fabulous, and so gifted. You do what you love and you love what you do and you rock my world! :)