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Psychology of the Mask

With Laurie Margot Ross

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
7:00 PM–8:30 PM

Psychology of the Mask: Inner and Outer Dimensions

In the West, masks are often considered little more than props to hide behind or have fun with. But in much of the world they represent powerful forces that safeguard against evil and are conduits for healing and transformation. This dichotomy is seen in the Indonesian word for mask, “˜topeng.’ This borrowed Hokkien (Chinese) term from tò péng means “reverse side” or “wrong side.” Understanding the mask through its hidden dimension seems a peculiar association to an object associated with its outer aesthetic, yet our fascination lies in its illusory appeal. In this talk, Laurie Margot Ross considers the face projected out into the world through the processes of ritual, religion, and theatre, and the embodied experiences behind it—including trance, the loss of inhibition, and the transmission of emotions between the occupant and onlooker.

About the Speaker

Laurie Margot Ross is a leading expert on the religious and psycho-emotional aspects of masks and visual culture. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and is a Visiting Fellow in the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University. Her first book, The Encoded Cirebon Mask, is under review. Funded by the SSRC (Transregional Research) and KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, it traces the evolution of masking from its popular entertainment roots to a sophisticated Sufi form in colonial Java. Twice a Fulbright Scholar (Islamic Civilization; Fulbright-Hays), Dr. Ross has also worked with Dr. Paul Ekman on a cross-cultural study of emotions for National Geographic. She is now launching a project that employs masks as a tool to stimulate global compassion in schools and the workplace.

Image Credit: Transformation Mask – Tsungani Fearon Smith, Jr. (Cherokee, b. 1948) 1979 Wood, horsehair, abalone, paint Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University Bequest of William R. Wright, 1995

Tickets: $18.00

Member Price: $16.20