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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
August 2023
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Book description

This is a bold and wide-ranging account of the unique German public theatre system through the prism of a migrant artistic institution in the western post-industrial Ruhr region. State of the Arts analyses how artistic traditions have responded to social change, racism, and cosmopolitan anxieties and recounts how critical contemporary cultural production positions itself in relation to the tumultuous history of German state patronage, difficult heritage, and self-cultivation through the arts. Jonas Tinius' fieldwork with professional actors, directors, cultural policy makers, and activists unravels how they constitute theatre as a site for extra-ordinary ethical conduct and how they grapple with the pervasive German cultural tradition of Bildung, or self-cultivation through the arts. Tinius shows how anthropological methods provide a way to understand the entanglement of cultural policy, institution-building, and subject-formation. An ambitious and interdisciplinary study, the work demonstrates the crucial role of artistic intellectuals in society.


‘In this truly captivating book, Jonas Tinius shows most convincingly anthropology´s unique quality to explain the large scale: Germany as a nation and ideas of Bildung in combination with recent migration, through a small scale case of contemporary theatre, the Theatre an der Ruhr. By including the concept 'ethico-aesthetic' the analysis opens up for further understandings of how ethical issues and practices complement aesthetic ones, importantly also further afield. Inspiring and impressive, State of the Arts is a game-changer.'

Helena Wulff - Professor Emerita of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

‘State of the Arts is a (perhaps the first) genuine organisational ethnography of a German theatre. Tinius has written a groundbreaking study that links ethnographic fieldwork with fundamental insights into German theatre's institutional makeup to illuminate the remarkable Theater an der Ruhr.'

Christopher Balme - Professor of Theatre Studies, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

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