Ethno-mimesis as performative praxis. Re-presenting the lived experience of prostitution.

Maggie O’Neil used the ‘intertextuality’ of live performance art and photography as part of her own ethnographic research methodology defined as ‘ethno-mimesis’, re-presenting the lived experiences of women working as prostitutes into wider societies.

‘Mimesis is the process whereby we assimilate the self to the other (artwork or ethnographic encounter) through the mimetic faculty. We engage in a dialectic process of immersion and construction (making sense if what we are immersed in, experiencing the enigmatic quality of the work or the ‘field’) through cognition, construction, objectification, interpretation. Giving one-self over to the piece must be accompanied by philosophical reflection. These are not two separate activities – mimesis and theoretical reflection. these both halves of the same whole. The ‘enactment and assimilation of the other that constitute memesis are inseperable from but also distinct from the rationality of philosophical reflection’ (Nicholsen 1991: 151)

‘By focussing upon life-history work with women working as prostitutes and by experiencing women’s stories re-presented through live art, we can further our understanding of the complexities of sex, sexualities, desire, violence, masculinities and the relevance of the body – the gendered body, the imaginary body, the performative body, the social body – within the context of postmodern times, de- traditionaisation, and what Stjepan Mestrocic calls ‘postemotionalism’ and compassion fatigue.’

Maggie O’Neill in ‘Prostitution and Feminism. Towards a Politics of Feeling’. 2001. Blackwell.

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