William Kenneth Little
Department of
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My research focuses most generally on the analysis of society as spectacle, visual culture, and popular cultural performance in both Euro-North American and postcolonial societies. My earliest fieldwork with the European one-ring circus focused on politics and poetics of spectacle and performance in the making of an entertainment culture. My circus work concerned itself with the cultural production of the circus, with the dialogics and discourses of sight, and with contemporary encounters with circus artists. I am now in the process of writing the life histories of three circus artists in concert with a cultural and historical analysis of European circus spectacles and fascism in hopes of developing an idea about the varied crises of the modern, most significantly revealed by fascism. I have conducted research on tourist safaris in Kenya as spectacle productions, analyzing the visual politics of tourist experience and I am now conducting research on the rise of the tourist state in Belize . The Belize research turns its attention to how tourism becomes a significant modality through which transnational, late-modern, everyday life is organised and how tourist encounters opened imaginative spaces that stimulate new identity productions, highlight new aspects of social relations and interactions with nature that actively ensure new "fantasies of becoming" even as new social pressures develop to try and control the flows of tourist desire. I am interested in new ways of thinking about and through flows, processes, and interconnections in touristic encounters, productions and narratives as a means of tracking the enactments of citizenship under the pressures of local and global transformations. In sum, I work on questions of spectacle consumption, capitalism, and everyday life. Related to these interests are my concerns with questions of representation and interpretation opened up by post-structural approaches to socio-cultural analysis and an abiding interested in ethnographic writing as a performative process. I am also committed to keeping the crucial importance of politcal/historical/cultural reflection in the forefront of my research, teaching, and ethnographic practice.

Representative Publications

2003 "Pitu's Doubt: Entrée Clown Self-fashioning in the Circus Tradition" In Joel Schechter, ed., Popular Theatre: A Sourcebook. Pp. 138-149. London and New
York: Routlegde. (re-issued article)

Talking Circus not Culture: The Politics of Identity in European Circus Discourse. Qualitative Inquiry 1 (3): 346-359.

1994 Reading Archaos: Transgression, Surveillance, and the Spaces of Power in Popular Entertainment. In J. Marriott & I. Neuman (eds.), Sensoria from Censorium 2 . Mangagin Books, pp.1-8.

Masochism, Spectacle, and the ‘Broken Mirror' Clown Entrée: A Note on the Anthropology of Performance in Postmodern Culture. Cultural Anthropology 8 (1): 117-129.


The Rhetoric of Romance and the Simulation of Tradition in Circus Clown Performance. Theme issue, "The Semiotics of the Circus," Semiotica 85 (3/4): 227-255.


A Mutual Parody of Meaning in Circus Clown and Ethnographic Discourse. Theme issue, "From Method to Modesty: Essays on Thinking and Making Ethnography," Culture 11 (1/2): 77-92.


On Safari: The Visual Politics of a Tour Representation. In D. Howes (ed.), The Varieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 149-163.


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