Richard Sennett’s new book, The Performer, explores a basic division in culture, that between artistic and ritual performances. In the Monthly Lecture, he explored this difference in the work of consolation, the need of the living to reconcile themselves to the death of others. The lecture focused particularly on the Jewish ritual of Kaddish, and asked how this three-thousand-year-old ritual might be transformed into a piece of art – an original work created by individuals and performed outside the boundaries of religion.
Richard Sennett is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University and Visiting Professor of Urban Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Presently, he serves as Senior Advisor to the United Nations (UN) on its Program on Climate Change and Cities. He founded the New York Institute for the Humanities and is a University Professor of History and Sociology at New York University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Sennett is a social analyst as well as an outstanding social-philosophical writer. His most prominent books include The Hidden Injuries of Class (1972), The Fall of Public Man (1977), The Culture of the New Capitalism (2006), and Building and Dwelling (2018). In his work, Sennett has explored how individuals and groups give social and cultural meaning to material facts. He has written about social life in cities, changes in labour, and social theory. His new book, The Performer, will be published in 2024.
Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow, introduced the speaker and moderated the ensuing Q&A.
A recording of the event is available below.