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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing From The Archive

The Emancipated Spectator

Book: The Emancipated Spectator
Written by : Jacques Rancière
Published by: Verso books (2009)

Jacques Rancière’s ‘The Emancipated Spectator’ originated as an introduction to the reflections of the academy of artists on the role of the spectator at the Fifth Summer Academy of Arts, held in Frankfurt in 2004. He investigates the emergence of the spectator as a contradictory figure in critical thought and insists that a spectator in the theatre is not just a passive voyeur and that there is no linear and uniform transmission of thought from one individual to the other. The spectators are not merely seduced by the performance but learn from it, thereby becoming active participants. The book develops the ideas outlined in ‘The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation’ (1991) —- that the artist should be like an ‘ignorant schoolmaster’ who does not just teach his students but allows them to explore. ‘The Ignorant Schoolmaster’ teaches that “ignorance is not a lesser form of knowledge, but the opposite of knowledge”(p. 9) and that knowledge is not about an amalgamation of information but about facilitating a position. Hence, for Rancière, ’emancipation’ is a position that helps blur the distinction between knowing and doing, the student and the teacher, specialist and amateur.

“Emancipation begins when we challenge the opposition between viewing and acting; when we understand that the self-evident facts that structure the relations between saying, seeing and doing themselves belong to the structure of domination and subjection. It begins when we understand that viewing is also an action that confirms or transforms this distribution of positions. The spectator also acts, like the pupil or scholar. She observes, selects, compares, and interprets. She links what she sees to a host of other things that she has seen on other stages, in other kinds of places. She composes her own poem with the elements of the poem before her. She participates in the performance by refashioning it in her own way…” (p.13)