Investigating and Contextualizing Dramaturgical Perspectives

Insights from Abhinavagupta and Social Psychology


  • Roman Palitsky Emory University
  • Isaac F Young Beloit College
  • Ben Williams Naropa University



Religion, culture, dramaturgical perspective, social psychology, Saivism


Believing that “all the world’s a stage” exemplifies using theater as a metaphor for life, also known as a dramaturgical perspective (DP). This project examines DPs in two historical contexts—contemporary psychological research, and the work of medieval Indian philosopher and literary theorist Abhinavagupta. Recent psychological research suggests that viewing oneself as “acting out a part” protects against social threats, but can simultaneously be alienating. Abhinavagupta posits that recognizing performativity can aestheticize life in a way that offers freedom from reified notions of self and other. This divergence suggests that DPs are entwined with cultural contexts. To test this, we examined the association of cultural orientations with responses to the DP among US emerging adults (N = 1146). Cultural variables were associated with DP endorsement, and with a key component of associations between DP endorsement and distress: feelings of inauthenticity. The discussion focuses on salient socio-cultural dimensions of DP operation.

Author Biographies

Roman Palitsky, Emory University

Roman Palitsky is a research psychologist and Director of Research Projects in Spiritual Health at Emory University School of Medicine. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona. His research programme investigates the pathways through which culture and health interact by examining the biological, psychological, and social processes that constitute these pathways. He is particularly interested in existential issues such as religion, spirituality, and the meaning of suffering, as they relate to health and illness.

Isaac F Young, Beloit College

Isaac F. Young is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Beloit College. He received his PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Arizona, preceded by a MA in Social Psychology and Programme Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University. As the principal investigator of the Stress, Wellbeing, and Identity in Modernity Lab at Beloit College, Isaac’s research aims to explore how the characteristics of the modern world shape psychological processes and experience.

Ben Williams, Naropa University

Ben Williams is a scholar of Indian religions and an Assistant Professor of Yoga Studies and Hinduism at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He has received extensive training in Indian philosophy, literature, and aesthetics in Sanskrit sources. Ben completed his PhD in the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University. Since arriving at Naropa University, he has helped launch an MA programme in Yoga Studies, and currently serves as the programme lead.


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How to Cite

Palitsky, R., Young, I. F., & Williams, B. (2022). Investigating and Contextualizing Dramaturgical Perspectives: Insights from Abhinavagupta and Social Psychology. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 7(1-2), 89–116.