The article focuses on applications of the performance theory to the study of asceticism in Early Christianity. During the 20th century the religious studies had gone through 3 transitional stages in asceticism analysis before Richard Valantasis made a proposal of the new definition of asceticism as «performances within a dominant social environment intended to inaugurate a new subjectivity, different social relations, and an alternative symbolic universe». Now this definition is widely recognized and accepted among Early Christianity specialists, together with the performance studies approach on which it is based. Valantasis considered M. Weber, M. Faucalt and G. Harpham as his predecessors in asceticism studies, aiming to continue their work on reconsideration of the role of ascetic behavior in cultural processes and formation of culture. According to Valantasis and other performance studies followers, asceticism cannot be defined through traditional categories of renunciation, abstention or discipline, because they neglect its axiology focus and omit its nature as a conduct of self-transformation, but instead should be researched through its social functions and role in cultural transition.
Performance theory in studying of the history of Christian asceticism is a dynamically developing and very popular research paradigm in the West. One of the main achievements of the theory’s proponents is clear demonstration of impossibility to trace asceticism of any era to the history of its ascesis and ascetics, and also “secularism” and conditionality of actions, seeming motivated by religious grounds only. As mechanisms of this interference between the secular and the religious in ascetic behavior are universal because they lie in the basis of culture itself, then the way to the study of an ascesis of early Christians gets not so much through primary sources of that era, as through “social functions” of asceticism.
Key words: performance studies, performance, Early Christianity, asceticism, self
About the author
Petr A. Korpachev – Postgraduate student at the Department of the Philosophy of Religion and Religious Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University;