This article draws on performance theory to examine perambulation practices in late medieval and early modern England. Rogation was originally a devotional celebration that also entailed a ritual walking of parish boundaries to define communities as legal and administrative units. Perambulators sometimes seized upon the occasion to draw attention to a culture of obligation that had been neglected. This essay looks at two such moments—the 1381 Revolt of St. Albans, when the commons rose against the abbot in the form of a perambulation, and a 1520–21 property dispute at South Kyme, Lincolnshire at Ashby Heath. In these instances, perambulators used the occasion of the public recognition of property boundaries as an opportunity to stage a complaint in an act of “performative law.” The complainants asserted their rights and liberties by means of a theatrical form that invited participants and spectators to assent in specific legal claims to the land in dispute.
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Research Article| September 01 2021
Jill P. Ingram; Rogationtide Perambulation as Performative Law. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2021; 51 (3): 453–473. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-9295023
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