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Playing Dead
Montana Miller
6x9, 160 pages
published: 2012

ISBN 978-0-87421-891-6
cloth $31.95

ISBN 978-0-87421-892-3
e-book $25.95

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Montana Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, where she teaches courses in ethnographic methods, folklore, youth culture, medical anthropology, and Internet culture. A professional flying trapeze artist, high diver, and skydiver, she researches perceptions of risk and attitudes toward death, particularly among groups that are often stereotyped and misunderstood.

Playing Dead

Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in Staged High School Drunk Driving Tragedies

Montana Miller

In Playing Dead, Montana Miller examines the educational program "Every 15 Minutes" through a folklorist's lens. Designed to give high school students insight into the consequences of drinking and driving, the program consists of an elaborately planned performance: the Grim Reaper stalks the hallways of a high school, pulling one student from class every fifteen minutes; local public safety officials stage a gory automobile accident in the school parking lot; parents are called to the hospital; eulogies are read in school assemblies; and obituaries are posted.

Based on Miller's personal observations of the "Every 15 Minutes" program in action and research grounded in play theory, frame theory, and theory of folk drama, the book explores the key aspects of this emergent tradition and the spontaneous nature of what is assumed to be prescribed ritual in these forms of folkloreŭthe accidents, improvisations, fun, and even sabotage that regularly find their way into these performances. She uses ethnographic methods to explore the complex purposes, responses, and personal investments of participants and suggests that "Every 15 Minutes" illuminates what can happen to social messages when folklore, play, ritual, and education combine. With implications for the future study of drama and play, American educational and youth culture, and folk culture of America itself, Playing Dead is valuable to several fieldsŭfolklore, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.

Playing Dead is the second volume in the Ritual, Festival, and Celebration series, edited by Jack Santino.

Book Review Journal of Folklore Research February 27, 2013 / Reviewed by Monica Foote, Indiana University

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