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European Theatre Perspectives: Book of Abstracts


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European Theatre Perspectives: Book of Abstracts

We are delighted to welcome all speakers and registered attendees to the European Theatre Perspectives (ETP) symposium.

ETP offers a forum dedicated to exploring new channels for cross-cultural dialogue and engagement in performance. Bringing together researchers and practitioners working in different regional, linguistic, and disciplinary contexts, this international event aims to facilitate wide-ranging discussion of current issues and debates in the field.

Abstracts, contributor biographies, and selected pre-circulated papers are listed below. Papers marked with an asterisk* will not be given in full during the symposium, but will form a basis for further conversation, and we eagerly recommend reading them in advance to aid your participation in and enjoyment of the event. Please note that all linked texts are working versions, for private individual use only.

Abstracts and biographies are arranged in alphabetical order, by surname. Where a presentation or paper involves multiple participants or authors, entries are listed under the name of the first given speaker.

For general and scheduling information about the symposium, please view the event programme here.

We look forward to many inspiring and thought-provoking conversations over the three days of the event, and we wish you a wonderful stay in the city, during this special edition of the Theatre Olympics and the European Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016.

Paul Allain & Stacie Lee Bennett, Physical Actor Training — an online A–Z

If we want to research and analyse acting, and especially what can be called physical acting, how do we talk or write about movement, space, rhythm, and sound/voice? What are the limitations of text (articles and books) for documenting and analysing such processes? Are there better ways of opening up this area and actor training in particular to practitioners, academics, and students?

‘Physical Actor Training — an online A–Z’ is a two-year Leverhulme-funded project that began in January 2016. The research team (Paul Allain, Stacie Lee Bennett, Frank Camilleri, Peter Hulton) will develop for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury an A–Z of short films accompanied by commentaries as a means to best capture the experience of foundational training, including both trainers’ and trainees’ perspectives. The resource aims to show the complexity of the training process from a richer perspective than just another ‘How to Act’ guide.

Investigating terms such as Awareness, Balance, and Craft, for example, the research team aims to present exercises in an accessible and stimulating way, using the digital platform to explore ideas and exercises across the alphabet. With tools such as on-screen film annotation and multi-dimensional audio commentary, we aim to develop new insights into Physical Actor training as a rigorous yet exploratory and creative practice, and one in which failing is integral to learning.

By approaching this type of artistic pedagogy with a ‘digital’ outlook, we will broaden the scope for epistemological reflexivity in new trainees and hope to foster perceptual abilities equivalent to those which we encourage in physical actor training. By producing a framework that supports practice-as-research and interdisciplinary investigation as opposed to text-only approaches, we also intend to create a resource that can continue to evolve flexibly as technologies develop. The future is, after all, digital.

The presentation will introduce the project and its key aims and show some examples of the A–Z taken from the pilot filming phase.

Paul Allain is Professor of Theatre and Performance and Associate Dean (Research) at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Allain’s PhD was on the Gardzienice Theatre Association of Poland and subsequently published as Gardzienice: Polish Theatre in Transition (1997). Since then he has published several books, DVDs, and articles on theatre and actor training as both author and editor, including on the work of Tadashi Suzuki and Andrei Droznin. Routledge published his Companion to Theatre and Performance, co-written with Jen Harvie, in early 2006 with an expanded second edition in 2014. From 2006–9, he led the AHRC-funded British Grotowski Project, which culminated in an international conference and a series of publications, including Ludwik Flaszen’s Grotowski and Company (as editor, 2013), Voices from Within: Grotowski’s Polish Collaborators (co-editor, 2015), and Zbigniew Cynkutis’s Acting with Grotowski (2015). And in 2009, he received an award from the Polish government for services to Polish culture. He is currently consultant Research Mentor for the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama which comprises eight institutions specializing in circus, dance, and theatre. His latest project funded by the Leverhulme Trust is to make films about physical actor training to comprise an online A–Z for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury.

Stacie Lee Bennett is a Leverhulme-funded Research Associate on ‘Physical Actor Training — an online A–Z’, at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. She is a dance artist and filmmaker, whose work and interests interweave documentary-style films and visual art. After graduating from the University of Chester with a 1st Class Honours degree in Dance in 2011, Stacie then gained an MFA in Choreography from the University of Roehampton in 2013. Her work aims to diversify and re-present the experience and potential of dance/performance through the use of digital tools, specifically film. Her latest collaboration is a dance film titled Who is the Land, which has just finished showing at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The film collaboration with choreographer Bethan Peters explored the cultivation of choreography in an environment of constant change, the UK coastline. Stacie has worked with a diverse range of international practitioners in videographic and creative roles. Clients include Trinity Laban, The Place, Roehampton University, Digital Theatre, Reactive Graphics, Ocean Outdoor, Canterbury Cathedral, Simon Ellis, Jia-Yu Corti, Emilyn Claid, Mary Armentrout, Igor and Moreno, and most recently Judita Vivas. More information can be found at www.stacieleebennett.com.

Khalid Amine, Theatre in the Postcolony and the Burden of Double Critique: The case of the Maghreb

(Keynote paper) (text)*

International theatre research has long studied the world before undergoing its revolution from inside. Should the world study back, or rather, perform back while striving for recognition? The intercultural debate of the 1980s and 1990s implied the possibility of a democratic interweaving across worldwide performance cultures. Still, the task of postcolonial scholarship is further complicated while re-visiting the existing body of world theatre histories. Our performance cultures are hardly visible in the ‘universal narrative of capital — History 1’ (Dipesh Chakrabarty), typically edited out, and if ever mentioned, it is often on the borderlines between absence and presence.

Europe has ever been the silent referent in world theatre history. Upon rising demands for further democratizing the discipline, new modes of writing theatre history from below have emerged with an earnest desire for inclusion. The postcolonial turn, however, requires an evaluation of all different ‘Occidents’ and ‘Orients’ that have produced us as postcolonial subjects. My deployment of a Double critique is an invitation to redeem postcolonial performance history from its interminable oppositional thinking ‘by shifting the postcolonial subject’s fixation on the Other/West to an inward interrogation of his political and ideological self-colonization and self-victimization’ (Mustapha Hamil).

The two disparate paths chosen by people of the Maghreb as means to re-construct a post-colonial society, risk falling into essentializing creeds: in choosing to seek refuge in pastness, they turn their back on the Western influence that has become part of our heritage ever since the Greco-Roman presence in Tamazgha and other parts of what is now the Arab world. However, in choosing to blindly appropriate the Western path, they also fall into another kind of essentialism which sees European theatre as a unique and homogeneous epitome that should be disseminated all over the world even at the expense of other peoples’ performative agencies.

Khalid Amine is Professor of Performance Studies at the Faculty of Letters and Humanities at Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tetouan, Morocco; Research Fellow at the Institute of Interweaving Performance Cultures, Free University, Berlin, Germany (2008–10); and winner of the 2007 Helsinki Prize of the International Federation for Theatre Research. Since 2007, he has been Founding President of the International Centre for Performance Studies (ICPS) in Tangier, and convener of its annual international conferences. He serves as a member of IFTR Ex-Com (2011–18), and has been Head of Jury at the Arab Theatre Festival (2014). Among his published books are: Beyond Brecht (1996), Moroccan Theatre Between East and West (2000), Fields of Silence in Moroccan Theatre (2004), and Dramatic Art and the Myth of Origins: Fields of Silence (2007). He has numerous publications in international theatre journals, such as TDR, Theatre Journal, Documenta, Etcetera, Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies, and FIRT Journal. His book chapters include ‘Performing Postcoloniality in the Moroccan scene: Emerging Sites of Hybridity’, in Contesting Performance: Global sites of research (2010), and ‘Postcolonial Modernity: Theatre in Morocco and the Interweaving Loop’, in The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism (2014). Amine is co-author with Distinguished Professor Marvin Carlson of The Theatres of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia: Performance Traditions of the Maghreb (2012) and editor of The Art of Dialogue: East–West (2014).

Aljoscha Begrich, Rimini Protokoll: Listening cooperation

Out of the wide range of international projects we have been developing and presenting through the collective work of Rimini Protokoll, for the European Theatre Perspectives symposium I would like to focus on Truck Tracks Ruhr and App/Recuerdo. For Truck Tracks Ruhr, we adapted a truck, installing a large glass window at the side, to create a small, portable auditorium. The vehicle now travels through a traditional coal-industry region in the west of Germany which, after deindustrialization, faces numerous and diverse problems, especially in terms of spatial redistribution. The truck drives through the towns like a travelling camera and stops at certain places, where we invite different artists to present five minutes of audio on that specific view.

For App/Recuerdo, which will be presented in January 2017 in Santiago de Chile, we are collaborating with six Chilean artists and scientists. Over a period of one year, we have been seeking to gather and develop together more than 100 sound files of personal memories relating to the time of the Pinochet dictatorship. A specially developed smartphone application will enable audience members to listen to these memories at the locations where the stories unfolded. The sound recordings are designed to transform the contemporary architecture, restoring an auditory awareness of the past to the actions of the city today.

Aljoscha Begrich is a dramaturg and stage designer, born in East Berlin (GDR) in 1977. He studied History of Arts, Philosophy, and Cultural Studies in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City. After working as a stage designer in different theatres such as Staatstheater Stuttgart and Oper Dortmund, in 2010 he started working continuously on different projects for Rimini Protokoll, recently on Volksrepublik Volkswagen in Schauspiel Hannover, and on Remote X, which was presented in over 30 cities worldwide, including in Paris and Moscow. Since 2014, he has also been dramaturg at the Gorki Theatre Berlin and collaborated with artists such as Hans Werner Kroesinger and Lola Arias.

Marin Blažević, Rethinking mis-performance in-between international and intra-cultural


This intervention will critically reflect on the international cultural project and local performing arts institution that I have recently been involved with in various capacities, as a director, dramaturge, curator, and once even a performer. Namely: Performance Studies international’s (PSi), globally dispersed and decentralized, both artistic and research conference Fluid States: performances of unKnowing (worldwide, 15 locations throughout 2015); and — on the far opposite end — the Croatian National Theater in the city of Rijeka and its Opera Company that I have been co-running for the past two years.

The focus, however, will not be on the actual contents or programs of the respective projects and institutions (at least, not more than will occasionally be necessary), but rather on the ideas that generated, and the agendas that shaped them, particularly considering their intra-cultural response-ability, as well as inter-local correspondences and dissonances with other social situations and cultural environments. The argument will build upon and rethink the concept of misperformance that I have proposed and elaborated over recent years (in collaboration with Lada Čale Feldman). I will draw attention to misperformative dimension and challenges of the Fluid States performances of unKnowing project and its (only seemingly?) antipodal cultural institution that is National Theater (and, moreover, its Opera). What makes misperformance the crux of their (discrepant) performances? How is it that a failure, an error, a miss, can be turned — with our without intention — into a happy mis-performative? How do we learn not-to-know — but nevertheless perform? When do we know it is the time, and that is the place where we have to perform?

Marin Blažević, PhD, is a dramaturge, theatre manager, and creative producer, as well as a theatre and performance studies scholar based in Zagreb, Croatia. As an Associate Professor, he teaches theory and history of theatre and drama, performance studies, and dramaturgy at the Academy of Drama Arts, and opera dramaturgy at the Music Academy, University of Zagreb. In fall 2014, he started a four-year term as Head Dramaturge of the Croatian National Theatre (CNT) in Rijeka and Artistic Director of the CNT’s Opera Company. Recently he was also appointed acting General Manager of CNT in Rijeka. Marin has published widely in English, Italian, Croatian, and Slovenian. His publications include authored and edited books, collections of essays, and edited thematic issues of international journals for performing arts and performance studies, often with collaborators such as Matthew Goulish, Lada Čale Feldman, and Una Bauer. In 2011, Marin was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Postdoctoral Grant, conducting a research project titled ‘Dramaturgy: Shifting Concept and Practice’ at Columbia University (Theatre Arts, Dramaturgy) and New York University (Performance Studies). One of Marin’s main projects was programming — in the capacity of conference director — the 15th annual conference of Performance Studies international (Zagreb 2009) on the theme ‘MISperformance’. He has also been Chair of PSi’s International Committee (since 2010) and co-founder (with Peter Eckersall) of the PSi working group, Dramaturgy & Performance Studies (in 2012). He was director and dramaturge of PSi 2015, a dispersed international conference project held in fifteen locations around the world, called ‘Fluid States: Performances of unKnowing’.

Mateusz Borowski, Distributed Memory: Cloud and performative practices of recollection

(English text; Polish text)*

The paper takes as its starting point and its basic material for analysis Eduardo Kac’s installation Genesis (1999), as an example of how modern technology is used to organize participation in a performative event and simultaneously how it shapes the process of recollection. The analysis has a specific aim in view: it is premised on the assumption, put forward by media historians, that the social and cultural practices of memory are, in a critical way, connected with metaphorical notions that describe the process of recollection and the way of accessing the stored data. Typically, it is technologies of storing data — such as photography, tape recording, or computing, that are in a given time and cultural context regarded as the most advanced — which serve as a term of comparison for the workings of memory. In this respect, metaphors are not only descriptive tools, but their implementation leads to the establishment of specific orders of memory. One of the latest inventions of this kind that has recently been gaining increasing importance is the digital cloud, which in the 21st century has come to be recognized as the most advanced technology for data storage and therefore a new metaphor for both individual and collective memory.

Drawing on these assumptions, I would like to refer to the latest works of media historians (Jussi Parikka, Zhen Wei-Hu), who stress that the cloud is not only a memory storage implement, but also a new cultural regime in which the notion of distributed agency gains primary significance. However, I will also depart from the argument of the aforementioned media scholars who claim that the cloud as form of decentered social connectivity predates cyberculture and can be found in the system of distribution and communication born in the industrial era (e.g. sewage, railway network, television). In my paper I will be primarily interested in examining the impact of those technological and cultural changes on performative practices and particularly on the novel modes of participation in performative arts. Consequently, I would like to argue that the forms of interaction typical of the cloud regime appeared in performative arts earlier in the 20th century, particularly in connection with the problem of memory. I am particularly interested in the interconnection between performative practices on the border of art and social life and their connection with the development of cybernetics and cognitive studies.

Mateusz Borowski teaches cultural studies, queer theory, and translation studies at the Department for Performativity Studies at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków. He is also active as a translator. His books include In Search of the Real: New Developments in European Playwriting of the 1990s (2005), Strategies of Forgetting: Memory and Cyberculture (2015), and, together with Małgorzata Sugiera, In the Trap of Opposites: Ideologies of Identity (2012).

Alissa Clarke, ‘The Habit of Holding Out One’s Hand: Potent pleasure, kindness, and care in the intercultural performer training space

In his 1993 work, Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture, Rustom Bharucha critiques the ‘violent’ vocabulary evident in the lexical and embodied discourses deployed by certain intercultural psychophysical performer trainings. Over 20 years later, such violence and pain arguably still reflect the discourses used to carry out, articulate, and disseminate the work of a number of key cross-cultural, pre-performance practices. Such discourses can be creative and pragmatically useful in the training space, and the result of surrounding, specific socio-political contexts. However, they can also easily dissolve into an enshrinement of those discourses, leading to self-indulgent and highly problematic fetishization of pain and cruelty and a reverence towards such means as the only way in which to achieve results. This positions the actor within a macho, mythic, romanticised tradition of the artist as needing to suffer.

Engaging with the work of Julia Varley, Iben Nagel Rasmussen, and Ariane Mnouchkine, and drawing upon empirical experience of Phillip Zarrilli and Sandra Reeve’s performer trainings, this paper will argue that these practitioners and their intercultural trainings offer radical alternatives to such traditional power-based discourses. Working in fruitful dialogue with Hélène Cixous’s theorisations of embodied pleasure and generosity, this paper will explore the often hidden, ignored and underprivileged discourses of joy, kindness, and care within, surrounding, and enabling these cross-cultural practices and their creation. It will focus particularly upon the modes of dissemination in the training space that directly challenge and dissolve aggressive tendencies that lead to over-forceful treatment of the body and injury, and focus on affirmative discourses of facilitation that enable the participant’s body to open up and evolve, rather than tense and constrict through chastisement and restriction. It will demonstrate how these approaches challenge the sadomasochistic impulse in cross-cultural training, positioning the participants’ experience of the practice, rather, in terms of pragmatic and mutually enabling self-care and consideration. The paper will display the agency-filled possibilities of engaging with and in a cross-cultural training context from a place of pleasure, kindness, and acceptance, rather than suffering. Indeed, this paper will argue that these intercultural practices can be viewed as embodying and building upon the key principles of what Rhonda Blair has previously determined as a ‘feminist pedagogy’, that ‘helps the student develop a self-acceptance which allows her to be simultaneously critical of and compassionate towards herself, her work and the world at large’.

Alissa Clarke is Senior Lecturer in Drama in the School of Visual and Performing Arts at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She has been training with Phillip Zarrilli since 2002 and has been engaging with Sandra Reeve’s ‘Move into Life’ practice since 2005. Alongside contemporary body-based performance practice and performer training, Alissa’s research interests include: feminist and gender theory and performance practice (live and on film), classical Hollywood cinema, and documentation of performance. She has published in these areas in books and periodicals, including Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, TDR: The Drama Review, and The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice. Alissa’s recent practice includes co-direction of the immersive theatre/expanded cinema event, The 1960s Cinema Going Project (Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, Picturehouse Central, Piccadilly, London). She is co-curator of the Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre’s Peter Whitehead Archive, and will be co-producing a series of events at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 in connection with the Archive. She is an associate convenor of the European Theatre Perspectives symposium, Wrocław 2016.

Maria M. Delgado, The Spaces Between: Reflections on Europe, culture, and its others

(Long Table conversation) (text)

On Friday 9 September 2016, the British press reported that Prime Minister Theresa May had called her Polish counterpart, Beata Szydło, to ‘express her deep regret’ at the race-hate attacks that have taken place on Polish citizens since the Brexit vote on 23 June. Only a few days after the referendum, London’s Polish Social and Cultural Association in the Hammersmith district of London was vandalized. On 27 August, factory worker Arkadiusz Jóźwik was attacked in Harlow, a town to the north east of London, and died of his injuries two days later. Two other Poles were assaulted a few hours after a vigil that followed his death. At the end of August, my Polish sister-in-law was deeply shaken by verbal abuse suffered on a visit to the cinema. ‘Go home’, she was unceremoniously told, ‘you are not wanted here’. On the same September day that Theresa May spoke of a hate crime unit to address such violent crimes, a 28-year old man was viciously attacked by a group of teenagers in Leeds, with the Polish Embassy chronicling that this was one of 10 incidents of xenophobic violence in the North of England reported to them in recent weeks. A further 17 reported cases of xenophobic violence against Poles had involved consular support in Southern England and the Midlands. And then there are the episodes, like those against my sister-in-law, that do not go reported. So what is it about Brexit that appears to have legitimised a climate of xenophobia against the UK’s largest community of foreign-born residents? And what responsibility does culture have at this time to offer alternative ways of thinking through who we are, how we identify ourselves and what citizenship means?

Maria M. Delgado is an academic, critic, and curator. Professor and Director of Research at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, she has published widely in the area of Spanish- and Catalan-language theatre and film. Her film work includes 19 years as a programme adviser on Spanish and Latin American cinema to the London Film Festival, and curatorial work for the Ciné Lumière and BFI Southbank. She is chair of the board of Actors Touring Company and writes on film and theatre for a range of publications including Sight & Sound, Plays International, and European Stages; she is Co-Editor of Contemporary Theatre Review, and also contributes regularly to a range of BBC radio programmes. She is a member of the Academia Europaea and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute for Modern Languages Research at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

María Estrada-Fuentes, Performative Reintegration: An affective approach to applied theatre and DDR in Colombia


Creative approaches to conflict transformation have become a critical object of enquiry in performance, politics, and medical studies, while questions regarding impact-measurement and cost-effectiveness are a central element in the development of public policy. Scholars concerned with Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration programmes (DDR) have persuasively argued that the context of reintegration and the role of former combatants in post-conflict scenarios needs to be considered when implementing public policy. From an applied theatre perspective, James Thompson demonstrates that standardised strategies should not be implemented in arts-based projects for former combatants and other vulnerable communities, while he argues for the need of an affective turn in applied theatre practice (Thompson 2009).

However, there is still little known about the role of human emotions and bodily transactions in enabling and securing the sustainable reintegration of former combatants in contexts of former or continuing violent conflict. As a result, scholars and policy makers are yet to explore fully the importance of affect and performance, both as paradigm and practice, in enabling and sustaining social reintegration. Without an adequate analysis of the affective and embodied dimensions of social reintegration, we undervalue their significance in the transformation of relational patterns among civilians and ex-combatants.

In this paper, I am interested in discussing the implementation of performance practice in public policy on reintegration. For this, I draw on my own experience working on reintegration programmes and capacity building in Colombia. I focus on the private processes, the affective transactions, and body-based critical understanding of secondary care that can be facilitated by performance practice. I outline a methodological approach to applied theatre in reintegration public policy, with an emphasis on the benefit of an affective focus to performance in secondary care practice.

María Estrada-Fuentes is an Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick. Her research interests are conflict transformation, peace-building, applied theatre, politics, and performance. She has worked with government institutions and NGOs implementing theatre, dance, and performance practice in the social reintegration of ex-combatants in Colombia. Her publications include ‘Affective Labors: Love, Care, Solidarity in the Social Reintegration of Female Ex-combatants in Colombia’ (in ‘Leveraging Justice’ a special issue for Lateral, online journal of the American Cultural Studies Association, co-edited with Janelle Reinelt, 2016); ‘Performing Bogotá: Memories of an Urban Bombing’ (in Performing Cities, ed. Nicolas Whybrow, 2014); and ‘Becoming Citizens: Loss and Desire in the Social Reintegration of Ex-combatants in Colombia’ (in Gendered Citizenship: Manifestations and Performance, eds. Bishnupriya Dutt, Janelle Reinelt, and Shrinkhla Sahai, forthcoming 2017).

Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Body as Site of Interweaving Performance Cultures

(Keynote paper)

This paper will deal with problems arising from the globalization of embodied knowledge in the performing arts. Proceeding from theories by Marcel Mauss and Helmuth Plessner, the following questions will be discussed: Does this knowledge refer to certain body techniques only — i.e. the transportable artistic devices, as Brecht put it — that will only have an impact on the body-object? Or does it also affect the body-subject? Moreover, is the embodied knowledge of the actor/performer not part of a much broader field of knowledge including a particular aesthetics or even philosophy, or a particular religion or Weltanschauung? What happens when body techniques developed within a particular performance culture are transferred to another one? What kind of knowledge is acquired in this process?

These and related questions will be discussed by taking recourse to the appearance of the kabuki onnagata Tamasaburo Bando in the kunqu opera The Peony Pavilion (2008) and Ong Keng Sen’s production of Lear (1999).

Erika Fischer-Lichte, born in 1943 in Hamburg, is Professor of Theatre Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and Director of the International Research Centre for Advanced Studies on ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’. She has served as president of the International Federation of Theatre Research and is a member of the Academia Europaea, the Academy of Sciences Goettingen, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Among her publications in the fields of aesthetics, theory of literature, art, and theatre, in particular on semiotics and performativity, theatre history, contemporary theatre, and intercultural theatre, are Tragedy’s Endurance: Performances of Greek Tragedies and Cultural Identity in Germany Since 1800 (forthcoming 2017), Dionysus Resurrected: Performances of Euripides’ The Bacchae in a Globalizing World (2014), The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies (2014, Polish 2012, German 2009), The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism (2014), Global Ibsen: Performing Multiple Modernities (2010), The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (2008, Polish 2008, German 2004), and Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual: Exploring Forms of Political Theatre (2005).

João Florêncio, Dig Deep and Find Nothing: Ungrounding the Last Human Venue

This paper will speculate on the contributions theatre and performance, as both bodies of knowledge and forms of practice, can make to contemporary ecological and geological debates that have become associated with the ‘Anthropocene’, the term used to name a possible new geological epoch marked by the emergence of ‘the human’ as the dominant force. Departing from Patricio Guzman’s film-essay Nostalgia for the Light, the paper embraces the value of the ‘Anthropocene’ hypothesis and the ontological and epistemological questions it allows us to raise, whilst nonetheless drawing attention to the shortcomings of such thesis and its reiteration of imperial assumptions about ‘Humanity’ conceived as a singular abstract entity capable of acting in the world as such.

Embracing the translatability of performance paradigms and methodologies across the increasingly permeable boundaries of our contemporary fields of practice and academic enquiry, I claim that performance and theatre scholarship ought to become privileged interlocutors in the debates on the ecological crisis and the future of the planet. For, as disciplines concerned with action, bodily enactment, and witnessing, theatre and performance studies can provide invaluable insights into the enmeshment of bio- and geo-logics that marks our time and the shared traumatic histories of rocks and flesh, whilst also helping us avoid the traps of old colonial epistemologies.

However, in order to do so, both theatre and performance must first abandon their pursuit of ‘human’ essences on stage and deal with the remnants of their own colonial histories. Only then will they be able to fully embrace the contingent and fragmented nature that characterises all forms of knowledge grounded in bodily encounters, affects, and ephemeral exchanges. In doing so, our disciplines will be able to pave the way to more ethical and fairer forms of planetary politics and citizenship.

João Florêncio is Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter, UK. His interdisciplinary research navigates the intersections of visual culture and performance with queer theory, philosophy, geohumanities, and posthumanism, in an attempt to rethink embodiment and the visual vis-à-vis the philosophical and political problems surrounding ‘human’/‘nonhuman’/‘subhuman’ divides in Western thought. Currently he is Principal Investigator in the AHRC-funded project ‘Rock/Body’, which brings together various researchers from across the arts, humanities, social sciences, health, and earth sciences to investigate the human body as an interfacial zone between bio- and geo-logics. In parallel to that, and as another development of his main research concerns, João is also interested in articulations of sex, sexuality, and gender identities in performance and visual culture, particularly the ways in which themes of disease, infection, risk, and non-normative sexual practices bring the non-/in-/human to bear on the production of the Self and the latter’s circulation in contemporary visual ecologies. He is an affiliate member of the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities and a member of the Sexual Knowledge Research Unit, both based at the University of Exeter. He is also a founding member of the Future Advisory Board of Performance Studies international (PSi), and a Section Editor for Cultural Studies & Critical Theory at the Open Library of Humanities.

Rebecca Forsberg & Mays Hajjaj-Sylwan, RATS: Research, Arts & Technology for Society — Stockholm University’s research theatre

RATS Theatre creates artistic productions that involve research, technology, and society. Its theatre work has created interest especially for its unique ICT (Information and Communication Technique) and artistic interpretation, which have attracted new audiences in both public spaces and traditional theatre venues. RATS Theatre has produced several digital App performances with a focus on public participation: Haimon (2014), Maryam (2013), and Antigone’s Diaries (2010). The company started as an association in Husby-Kista, a suburb located northwest of central Stockholm, which is divided into a working-class residential area, with a majority of citizens of foreign background on one side, and commercial ventures — mostly in the ICT industry — on the other. This has created a feeling of ‘segregation’ in the words of some inhabitants. The limited interaction between both of these constituencies reflects a need that RATS Theatre seeks to fulfill. RATS wants to promote freedom of speech, to facilitate self-reflection, and to elicit the voices of theatre audiences about contemporary issues.

RATS Theatre’s unique way of employing technology in performing arts in order to address social issues mobilized several theatre and technology researchers to study its work and its effect on society. At the start of 2016, the group became Stockholm University’s resident ‘research theatre’, which — in addition to its primary research objectives — aims to build interdisciplinary collaborations, and to engage with and disseminate research questions (and results) to the public via artistic means. The presentation will address aspects of RATS Theatre’s recent and ongoing work, examples of which include Women in Science, Antigone in Husby, and EXILE Free poets on the run.

Rebecca Forsberg is a Swedish theatre and film director and playwright. She founded RATS Theatre in 2008, since when she has been its artistic director. She pursued her studies in theatre direction at Malmö Theatre Academy (2004) and obtained her Masters in Film, TV, and radio for youth at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts (2012). Her unique way of employing technology in performing arts to reach out to those who do not usually visit theatres and cultural centres mobilized several theatre and technology researchers to study her work and its effect on society. She has been nominated for several awards in Sweden and her recent short film LIV — I want to dance is currently competing in International Film festivals.

Mays Hajjaj-Sylwan is a theatre producer. She studied management and communication and pursued her Masters in cultural project management at the University of Toulouse-Capitole in France (2012). She was a co-founding member of the Palestinian Circus School (2006), where she taught circus and theatre techniques, performed, and produced circus productions with a focus on international collaboration. She worked as a performing arts producer and as a coordinator for international co-productions in Palestine, France, Belgium, and Sweden. Since February 2016, she has been a member of RATS Theatre, where her main role is both to support its strategic development within Stockholm University and to develop its international network.

Helen Gilbert, In the Slipstream: Indigenous denizens and intercultural performance in Europe

(Keynote paper)

Indigenous societies in many parts of the world have particular stakes in a postcolonial rethinking of European cultural heritage practices and networks. Over the last 500 years, countless indigenous people have inhabited this continent — as captives, entertainers, traders, labourers, soldiers, servants, dignitaries, athletes, protestors, artists, and more — some coming freely, others forced or coerced, all leaving traces of their presence, however fleeting. The histories and legacies of these denizens are indelibly entangled with our own. Their cultural riches, too often ossified as exotic artefacts, swell the galleries and storage vaults of ethnographic museums in our cities and university towns. Indigenous bones have leached into our soils alongside those of other colonial troops who died here in multitudes during the first and second world wars. Indigenous films, visual art, dance, and theatre now appear in a range of European (fringe) festivals and exhibitions, bolstering our multicultural capital and thereby our sense that the ‘new Europe’ is inclusive and cosmopolitan. In this context, there is a compelling case to approach European heritage as a fundamentally connective, co-constitutive, and international set of practices where particular socio-political configurations are writ large in cultural forms. As indigenous artists, performance makers and curators begin to open windows on this process, in conceptual as well as creative terms, their work has much to tell us about the intricacies (and traps) of cultural exchange.

My paper discusses two indigenous interventions at prominent European cultural sites, each facilitated and documented as part of my recent interdisciplinary research project, ‘Indigeneity in the Contemporary World’. The first work, Cultural Graffiti in London (2013), comprised a series of public performances in which Tahltan Nation artist Peter Morin sonically etched British landmarks — including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben — with the songs and drumbeats of his homelands in Canada. The second focused on Berlin’s renowned Ethnologisches Museum where Rosanna Raymond, a Pasifikan ‘tusitala’ or teller of tales, activated the massive Oceania galleries in a processional performance responding to the museum’s holdings. This work, titled Soli I Tai — Soli I Uta (Tread on the Sea — Tread on the Land) (2014), employed the Samoan principle of VA to convey how the objects on view are woven into human histories, past and present. We documented each event in photographs, videos, and recorded interviews and then crafted selections from this archive into short digital resources for circulation to new audiences. Morin’s work also inspired an (in-progress) interactive map that will guide users through real or virtual tours of ‘Indigenous London’, highlighting hidden histories of cultural and artistic exchange that have contributed to the city’s remarkable diversity.

These deceptively simple interventions raise profound questions about the provenance of specific heritage sites and objects in Europe — and beyond — even as they set up possibilities for new modes of stewardship and cross-cultural transmission in the arts and heritage sector. I will link these issues to current debates about materiality, representation, and agency in the dynamic slipstream of intercultural performance practice and its increasingly numerous digital offshoots.

Helen Gilbert is Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, and author or co-author of several books, notably Performance and Cosmopolitics: Cross-Cultural Transactions in Australasia (2007) and Postcolonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (1996). From 2009–14, she led a collaborative transnational project focusing on indigenous performance in the Americas, the Pacific, Australia, and South Africa, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). She has directed experimental performance work in universities, collaborated with museums to explore curatorial practices, and curated a major exhibition of performance-based arts at the Bargehouse on London’s Southbank. Her co-edited books include In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization (forthcoming 2017) and Recasting Commodity and Spectacle in the Indigenous Americas (2014). In 2015, she won a Humboldt Prize for accumulated achievements in international theatre and performance studies and is currently visiting fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society in Munich.

Franklin J. Hildy, The theatre-finder Project: Problems of sustainability and the possibilities for preservation of large-scale cross-cultural research projects

The theatre-finder.org project grew out of my 35 years of experience in attempting to identify and document all the theatres still existing in the world that are over 100 years old. While there have been numerous studies that document the theatres of a single city, a single region, a single country, and even a single type of theatre found across several national borders, this is the first attempt to look at the evolution of theatre architecture worldwide, across multiple cultures, and spanning numerous historic periods.

Preserved historic theatres form a significant cultural repository. Governments and organizations around the world have funded the preservation of historic theatre buildings in recognition of their cultural importance and architectural beauty. These buildings are a fundamental research tool for understanding that subset of performance history that focus on the art of the theatre. The list of interrelationships between architecture and performance is long, varied, and understudied. It is understudied because traditional archives of plans, drawings, photos, and descriptions are limited by their two-dimensional nature. Even models fail to convey the sheer scale of the structures they represent. This is a common problem for all architectural archives, not just those that deal with theatres. But in theatre architecture, volume of space is especially important. Volume of space establishes the relationship between the audience and the performer, and, more importantly, establishes the relationship an audience can have with itself. Volume of space is also the essential element for understanding how what I have called ‘social comfort’ operates to ensure that theatre architecture reflects the social order within the subculture it was built to serve. This significantly problematizes the notion that cultural hegemony on the part of the privileged dictated the arrangement of architectural space in theatre buildings. Historic theatres cannot be brought together into collections for study but they can be ‘collected’ by way of the internet and made accessible to both serous researchers and those who are intellectually curious. Historic theatres are becoming more dependent on visits from both to justify the funding they need to insure the continued preservation of these cultural treasures.

My work on theatre-finder.org raised the expected question on defining the limits of the study, sorting out inconsistencies of naming and dating, ensuring the reliability of the history provided for each theatre, and so on. But these normal scholarly challenges become especially complex when attempting an inter-cultural study on this scale. But I soon found that the same issues of sustainability that face many of the historic theatres I am trying to document, also face digital projects in the humanities in general. Using theatre-finder.org as my example, this paper will examine problems with sustainability and will explore the pros and cons of solving these problems using the existing infrastructure of the internet.

Franklin J. Hildy is Professor of Theatre History in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, where he serves as Director of Graduate Studies and is on the faculty of the Center for East Asian Studies. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Theatre (2010) and as a Senior Research Fellow of Shakespeare’s Globe, London (2015). He is the co-convener of the Digital Humanities in Theatre Research Working Group for the International Federation for Theatre Research, and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies at the University of Maryland. He has twice served as a Fellow of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities and was the organizer of the Theatre Panel of the Performing Arts Field Committee for the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH), which won a $900,000 grant for the ‘Virtual Vaudeville’ digital humanities project from the National Science Foundation. He is a member of the Association for the Historic Theatres of Europe and of the Organisation Internationale des Scénographes, Techniciens et Architectes de Théâtre (OISTAT). Hildy is co-author, with the late Oscar G. Brockett, of five editions of History of the Theatre, which has been translated into Chinese, Czech, Fārsī, Greek, Korean, and Ukrainian; author of Shakespeare at the Maddermarket; editor of New Issues in the Reconstruction of Shakespeare's Theatre; and General Editor for www.theatre-finder.org, an online index of all existing theatres over 100 years old. He has published over 65 articles on historic theatre architecture, theatre archaeology, Shakespearean staging techniques, and the history of Shakespeare in performance. He regularly lectures on these topics nationally and internationally.

Tomasz Kubikowski, Living a Contact: What Stanislavsky can teach us about communication


One of the basic meanings of Konstantin Stanislavsky’s keyword ‘переживание’ (perezhivanie) is ‘survival’ (‘living on’). We could claim that this is not a mere pun or figure of speech, and that Stanislavsky’s ‘system’ is based on the unwitting adaptation of techniques used in our everyday struggle for survival. Being thrown into the world without instruction or assurances, we try to perform against the unknown, uncategorised, and unpredictable, in a dramatic clash. This performance of ours generates instructions and descriptions, however, it precedes any discourse or description; thus it remains indescribable.

Stanislavsky viewed a theatrical stage as a simulative ecosystem, in which we cope with a double need for survival: in the simulated world of drama, and in the real world, where we must succeed with our performance before the audience. We can render the real-life performance on stage and in this twice-performed performance we can venture into the very process of performing, creating instructions and verifying it against the changing ‘given circumstances’.

In his claims, Stanislavsky remains in accordance with views on the work of the human consciousness that were developed extensively at the turn of the 20th Century — especially those of Gerald Edelman, who opposed the primary uncategorised recognition of a situation to the secondary cognition of previously elaborated categories. This opposition corresponds with Stanislavsky’s basic discernment between the art of living a role and the art of representation. Furthermore, Stanislavsky’s specific guidelines concerning actors’ stage behaviour correspond with the consequences of Edelman’s ‘neural Darwinism’, and his basic claim that ‘evolution works through selection, not instruction’.

Finally, on a metatextual level, the very process of writing An Actor Prepares by the disabled Stanislavsky — who had lost his ability to perform onstage after repeated heart attacks, and spent the final ten years of his life trying to put into the words his lifelong acting experiences — may be seen as an Sisyphean effort of categorising one’s own performance.

Conclusion: the efforts of Stanislavsky bring us close to situations in which we face unmediated contact with the world and with others; situations that generate communication. They may allow us to create ‘sandboxes’ for such communication and for rehearsing the art of survival: for living a part both onstage, and in the world.

Tomasz Kubikowski is a theatre and performance researcher, professor at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw, Literary Director at the National Theatre in Warsaw, and guest lecturer at the University of Warsaw (Artes Liberales). His publications include Siedem bytów teatralnych (Seven Theatre Beings, 1994), Reguła Nibelunga (The Nibelung Principle, 2004), Teatralne doświadczenie Wilhelma Meistra (Wilhelm Meister’s Theatre Experience, 2014), and Przeżyć na scenie (Living through it on Stage, 2015), as well as numerous articles and reviews in journals and edited collections. Kubikowski has translated extensively from English, including authors such as Richard Schechner and John McKenzie; in 2003, he coined the term ‘performatyka’, the Polish equivalent of ‘performance studies’. With Edyta Kubikowska, he edited Zbigniew Raszewski’s Raptularz (Diary, 2004), and, with Magdalena Raszewska, Dzieje Teatru Narodowego wydane w 150 rocznicę jego powstania (History of the National Theatre Published on the 150th Anniversary of its Creation, 7 vols, 2015). Kubikowski has served as a juror and consultant at various festivals and theatre competitions in Poland and abroad. From 1998 to 2006, he was board member of European League of Institutes of the Arts (from 2000 to 2004 as member of the Executive Group). From 2004 to 2007, he was chair of the Steering Group of the Socrates Thematic Network inter}artes. From 2009 to 2015 he was Director of the Meeting of National Theatres festival. From 2016, he is a specialist member of the Committee of Art Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN).

Maria Kulikovska, Art is a Political Body

Every day for the past ten years, I have engaged in doing art. Sometimes it is sculpture, sometimes it is installation, sometimes it is performance, text, action, print, painting, speech, teaching, lecture, everyday life... Is art something quite separate from everyday reality, that represents only a comfortable notion of beauty for an elite, or is it something through which we can change society? Could art today form a truly global, collective movement that crosses borders and social structures, and increasingly creates strong, shared platforms for new ideas, and meetings of different cultures, traditions, languages, ethnicities, histories, classes?

Recently, for one month my friends, sisters, family, and I lived as displaced, ‘non-persons’. By that time, I had been a refugee already for nearly two-and-a-half years, but other participants were members of the School of Political Performance; they had never been in this ‘skin’, in this position, in these shoes — which is why I view their engagement in the art project The Raft CrimeA (2016) as something significant, as truthful, engaged art. There is a freedom in transgressing the limitations of our everyday bodies, when we enter into a public space and do something risky, dangerous, non-habitual, frightening, repelling, excessive… It can liberate our own body/life. And the carving out of this ‘private space’ or ‘private freedom’ can happen through art; specifically through art in public.

We can explore this aspect of body/life as an ongoing performance, layered with so many ‘folds’, and with systems of socialization, power, and control. And when you do something extra-ordinary with your own body (because it is yours) in a public space (that is collectively ours), you may become like a creator, someone who crosses the borders of ‘normality’ and grasps some freedom for oneself, a political body. An artist can become a political person, but art as an abstract space and as a platform for wider participation, for every artist, every creator, is a political body.

Maria Kulikovska is an artist, actionist, architect, and curator born in the city of Kerch in Crimea (1988). She has studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kiev (2013) and the Royal Institute of Fine Arts in Stockholm (2016). The political reality in Ukraine led Maria to seek solidarity in Europe, where she met the Swedish artist Jacqueline Shabo, her partner and collaborator in the ongoing marriage/performance project Body and Borders (since 2014). Her recent work includes numerous performances, actions, happenings, sculpture objects, installations, and architecture structures, such as Sweet/ss Life (2012), Soma (2013), 254 (2014), White (2015), #onvacation (2015), Happy Birthday (2016), War and Pea$e (2016), and The Migrant Parliament of the Displaced: The Raft CrimeA (2016), and she has performed and exhibited internationally, in several European countries. Her sculpture projects Army of Clones (2010) and Homo Bulla (2012) were destroyed by occupying forces, in Donetsk, following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Since 2015, she has founded the art collective Flowers of Democracy, and co-established the School of Political Performance with the Visual Culture Research Center in Kiev, Ukraine.

Margherita Laera, Translating Theatre: ‘Foreignisation’ on stage

In this session, Dr Margherita Laera will present and discuss a short film documentary (25 minutes) chronicling three weeks of practice-as-research workshops investigating the notion of ‘foreignisation’ in theatre translation, which led to three public rehearsed readings at the Gate Theatre, London, in the summer of 2016. The film features the project’s researchers, translators, directors, and performers reasoning on the workshops’ main research question: what are the effects of a ‘foreignising’ translation on text and performance? The documentary was filmed and edited by Dominic Hicks.

The workshops were part of Dr Laera’s 2-year UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellowship project, entitled Translation, Adaptation, Otherness: ‘Foreignisation’ in Theatre Practice. The project argues that translation has a key role to play in fostering equality in the performing arts. In order to make theatres attractive to, and representative of, a more diverse audience, this project proposes to further, and widen awareness of, existing debates on the ethics and politics of translation among practitioners, industry professionals, audiences, students, and scholars. In particular, the project seeks to investigate how theatre translation can resist what translation scholar Lawrence Venuti calls ‘domestication’, which he defines as ‘an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values’ (1995: 20): how can we translate without flattening cultural difference? What role does theatre translation play in this debate?

Margherita will briefly introduce the documentary and discuss some preliminary findings of the project. The session will close with a Q&A.

Margherita Laera is a Lecturer in Drama and Theatre at the University of Kent, Canterbury. She is currently an AHRC Leadership Fellow (2016–18) for a project on theatre translation, Co-Director of the European Theatre Research Network, and Senior Book Reviews Editor at Theatre Research International. Her research interests include contemporary theatre in Europe; adaptation and translation for the stage; ‘classical’ Greek tragedy and its modern appropriations; theatre and ideology. In 2011, she was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for a project on theatre and adaptation, during which she published an edited collection of interviews, Theatre and Adaptation: Return, Rewrite, Repeat​ (2014). Her first monograph, Reaching Athens: Community, Democracy and Other Mythologies in Adaptations of Greek Tragedy (2013), theorises the political and ideological implications of staging Greek tragedy on contemporary European theatre stages. Alongside her career in academia, Margherita is involved in theatre as a translator and dramaturg. Her theatre translations from French and English into Italian have been performed and published in various Italian contexts, including the prestigious Piccolo Teatro in Milan. She is a member of the Italian Association of Journalists, and writes about arts, design, and culture in a range of high-circulation Italian magazines such as Io Donna (Corriere della Sera) and D (La Repubblica). Since 2007, she has worked as a theatre critic for the Italian theatre journal Hystrio, and published in various other international theatre publications.

Nic Leonhardt, Geteilte Geschichten: Exploring theatre histories as shared and divided


Ibsen’s plays in Australia, Pathé movies in Turkey, Denishawn in Asia, Houdini on world tour… Theatre and theatrical entertainments have transgressed national and regional boundaries in ways that have intensified and proliferated since the mid-nineteenth century. However, only recently have performance scholars begun to rewrite theatre history alongside the larger scholarly framework of ‘global’, ‘transnational’, ‘transcultural’, or ‘entangled’ history, and to foster the study of connections, exchanges, networks, or entanglements among theatrical arts, artists, and brokers.

My paper will discuss the particular ambivalence of geteilte Geschichte — a term from Shalini Randeria that refers to a history that is both divided (nationally, regionally) and shared (transnationally, transregionally) — and explore possible resonances of this concept for theatre studies. It will do so by illuminating a series of popular and lesser-known incidents and case studies from nineteenth- and twentieth-century theatre history; and by suggesting methodological approaches and devices (such as digital tools) that enable us to furnish past ‘theatrescapes’, including their varied flows and dynamics. With close reference to the Reinhart Koselleck-supported project Global Theatre Histories at LMU Munich, the paper will also examine how the ongoing digitization of source materials from this period (such as books, newspapers, and images), along with widening access to databases and innovative technological tools and platforms for sharing data, allows us to retrace aspects of translocal theatrical exchanges that might contribute to the revision of theatre history and historiography.

Nic Leonhardt is a theatre and media historian and writer, based in Munich and Cologne. Her scholarly activities are characterized by a strong interdisciplinary approach and focus on global theatre, media, and popular cultures at the turn of the twentieth century, as well on contemporary visual and urban cultures and Digital Humanities. She studied art history, theatre and audiovisual media, German philology and musicology and received a Dr. phil. in Performance and Media Studies from the University of Mainz (2006). From 2010 to 2015, Nic was the associate director of the international research project Global Theatre Histories (LMU Munich). Since 2013, she has been Principal Investigator of the DH project ‘Theatrescapes’, and since 2015 visiting professor for Inter Artes at the University of Cologne. She is currently Senior Researcher and Project Manager on the European Research Council funded project ‘Developing Theatre’ at LMU Munich, and is working on her third monograph, Transatlantic Theatrical Entrepreneurship: Circuits, Agencies, and Brokers at the Turn of the 20th Century.

Theresa Lillis, How well do academic texts travel? The politics of linguistic ideology and locality in knowledge production and evaluation

In this presentation I will give a brief overview of findings from a longitudinal research project, Professional Academic Writing in a Global Context (PAW), which explores the writing for publication practices of scholars based in four distinct national contexts, Slovakia, Hungary, Spain, and Portugal. For over 10 years we (Lillis and M. J. Curry) have collected extensive interview, observational, and textual data about scholars’ experiences and perspectives on submitting articles for publication in English medium ’international’ journals.

A key question I will ask is: how well do academic texts travel? Using a key unit of data collection and analysis, the ‘text history’, I will illustrate the specific ways in which ideologies around ‘English’ and ‘locality’ mediate evaluation and uptake of academic knowledge. I will argue that whilst an Enlightenment/rationalist discourse prevails around academic knowledge production, actual evaluation practices are shot through with ideologies around language and locality. I will draw on the notion of scales to explain the limitations of the apparently ‘functional’ distinctions between ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ uses of English and ‘locally’ and ‘globally’ relevant knowledge, to consider the challenges multilingual scholars face in getting published in ‘international’ journals.

Theresa Lillis is Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics at The Open University, UK. Her research interest in writing across a range of domains centres on the politics of production and participation. Authored, co-authored and edited books and Special Issues include Academic writing in a global context (with Mary Jane Curry, Routledge 2010), The sociolinguistics of writing (EUP, 2013), Theory in Applied Linguistics AILA Review (vol. 28, 2015), and The politics of language and creativity (co-edited with David Hann, Open University 2016).

Patrick Lonergan, Beckett and National Performance/Beckett as National Performance


In 2015, an Irish naval vessel was sent to the Mediterranean, as part of the EU’s response to the refugee crisis that had developed in that region. In the course of a three-month mission, the ship’s crew rescued over 1,000 people from the sea, bringing them safely to Italy or Malta. They returned to Ireland in December of that year, receiving what the Irish media described as a ‘hero’s welcome’.

Does it matter that the name of that Irish ship was ‘the LE Samuel Beckett’? That great dramatist famously abandoned Ireland for France — and while many scholars have highlighted Irish presences, influences and echoes in his work, his attitude to the Irish state was consistently negative. Yet that same state has repeatedly sought to capitalise on Beckett’s reputation, recently naming not just a naval vessel but also a landmark Dublin bridge after him. His image also featured in a 2006 advertising campaign to attract foreign direct investment to Ireland, and a production of Godot was a centrepiece of a 2003 trade mission to China.

Since his death, Beckett has been appropriated by the Irish state as a national icon and a national brand: one that performs a positive version of the nation to international audiences — including tourists, businesses, rating agencies, banks, governments, and many others (including theatre-goers). As a result, even when a ship on a humanitarian mission rescues people from the sea, a kind of performance is underway: one that uses Beckett to communicate ideas about Ireland.

This kind of nation branding is one of the most potent forms of cross-cultural dialogue in operation in Europe at present — with Ireland’s Beckett operating in a ‘performance space’ that includes Norway’s Ibsen, England’s Shakespeare, and many other examples. The question I explore in this paper, using Beckett as a case study, is this: if theatres and theatre-makers have been appropriated as ‘brands’ that can perform versions of the nation before international audiences, what impact does this have on our understanding of theatre and theatricality?

My aim, in other words, is to explore two forms of national performance. The first is the performance of national identities within theatrical spaces, and the second is the ‘performance’ by countries like Ireland through nation branding activities and other expressions of soft power. The first form of performance occurs within theatres and other performance spaces; the second is carried out in news reports, advertising, social media, and other cultural and social spaces.

This paper sets out to show how these forms of national performance interact. How does the LE Samuel Beckett’s performance of Ireland impact upon the performance of Samuel Beckett’s plays? How do these branded images influence Ireland’s status in Europe — especially in relation to the policies of austerity that were imposed upon it after the 2008 crash? Do the images of abjection and statelessness in Beckett’s work provide a lens for Irish audiences to view (and indeed to misapprehend) the refugee crisis in Europe? And do such ‘national performances’ inhibit or enhance intercultural understanding?

Patrick Lonergan is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at National University of Ireland, Galway. He is the author of Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era (winner, Theatre Book Prize, 2008), The Theatre and Films of Martin McDonagh, and Theatre & Social Media, and he has edited several collections of essays, anthologies and critical editions. He is currently completing a history of Irish theatre since 1950 for publication by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama in early 2018. With Kevin Wetmore he is editor of Bloomsbury’s Critical Companions to Drama and Theatre Studies series. He is academic editor of the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive at NUI Galway, and is engaged in several ongoing projects in the area of theatre and digital humanities.

Janelle Reinelt, The Politics of Reciprocity in International and Interdisciplinary Collaborations

(Keynote paper)

Over the last fifteen years I have been involved in several sustained international and interdisciplinary research collaborations, each with a substantial teaching and training component. I have become convinced that the practice of a conscious politics of reciprocity is the major key to the success of these ventures. I will be sharing experiences from an eight-year collaboration between colleagues at University of Warwick and at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and from a five-year Erasmus Mundus program called MAIPR (Master of Arts in International Performance Research). In addition, earlier international projects in Finland, California, and the on-going example of the Feminist Working Group within the International Federation for Theatre Research will figure into my analysis. The interdisciplinary aspects of my topic will focus on the links between theatre and performance and philosophy and politics, which have been the central disciplines I have drawn on during my career. I will sketch out a politics of reciprocity that is processual, context-based, and acutely aware of the historical and intellectual challenges to deep collaboration. I will also present some insights about mentoring and training based on these experiences.

In 2008, I became aware that my university (Warwick) had signed an agreement with JNU to make modest sums of seed-money available for research collaborations. Colleagues in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU reached out to us in the School of Theatre and Performance to see what we might do. Thus began a collaboration that has involved over 20 staff and many students, successful external funding bids, and lots of commitment and heart. The main areas of research after an initial period of mutual inquiry into each other’s interests were ‘History, Memory, Event and the Politics of Performance’ (2010-2013), and ‘Gendered Citizenship: Manifestations and Performance (2013-2016). The MAIPR program was a double degree masters offered over two years, centered at Warwick. Our partners were University of Amsterdam, the Universities of Tampere and Helsinki, and later, University of Belgrade. EU-funded scholarship made it possible to have a widely international student cohort from Asia and Africa and Latin America as well as Western Europe, North America and Australia. A number of colloquia, conference papers and publications as well as successfully awarded degrees have been the outcomes, as well as intangible ‘impacts’ such as community and intellectual relationality. These will be the key case studies in my presentation.

Janelle Reinelt, Emeritus Professor of Theatre and Performance at University of Warwick, was President of the International Federation for Theatre Research (2004–2007). She has published widely on politics and performance, receiving the ‘Distinguished Scholar Award’ for lifetime achievement from the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR, 2010), and an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki in 2014. In 2012, she was awarded the ‘Excellence in Editing’ prize together with Brian Singleton for their Palgrave book series, ‘Studies in International Performance’. Recent books include The Political Theatre of David Edgar: Negotiation and Retrieval with Gerald Hewitt (Cambridge UP, 2011), and The Grammar of Politics and Performance with Shirin Rai (Routledge, 2015). She has just co-edited with Maria Estrada-Fuentes a special issue of the Cultural Studies journal Lateral, entitled ‘Leveraging Justice’, published online this autumn at www.csalateral.org/wp. A collection, co-edited with Bishnupriya Dutt and Shrinkhla Sahai, Gendered Citizenship: Manifestations and Performance, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.

David Schwartz, Born to Run: Political theatre supporting the struggles of refugees


This paper aims to describe the personal and political experience of a collective of artists involved in the struggles of refugees in contemporary Romania. In the current Romanian context, the number of refugees is fairly small in comparison with other countries of the European Union. Despite this fact, recent years have seen an increase in the xenophobic anti-refugees and anti-immigration discourse in the public sphere, coming especially from mainstream media and from politicians from the whole political spectrum. The relatively small number of refugees and the discriminatory actions of Romanian border police and bureaucracy apparatus make the self-organization and self-representation of refugee groups very difficult. Therefore, collaboration and joined struggle with other minority groups and political activists is necessary. In this context, theatre projects can work as effective tools in supporting and promoting the struggles of refugee groups and individuals.

The paper focuses on several aspects: the personal experience of the artists learning about the problems and situation of Afghani refugees; the local historical-political context of immigration dynamics and specific refugees’ struggles, as well as the international one; the artistic and human experience of elaborating the political theatre play and performance Born in the Wrong Place, including the interactions and collaborations between the artists, themselves coming from ethnic minority groups, and the refugees; the perspective of the refugees themselves on the artistic process; the use of the performance as an information tool and a starting point for debate; the integration of the theatre project in a broader program for political activism.

The paper uses the concepts of Eurocentrism and Orientalism, elaborated by Arab scholars Samir Amin and Edward Said, respectively, and the definition of New Racism, as formulated by Étienne Balibar, in order to reveal the sustained oppressive relation between the Western/European/Euro-Atlantic subjects and the ‘Other’ — the Oriental/non-European/‘Third World’. This frame includes the historically racist perspective of the West towards (non-Western) immigrants; the direct relation between Anti-Semitism, Anti-Roma sentiments, and Islamophobia; and the perpetuation of these stereotypes in the historical context of Romania, as well as in contemporary discourse. Furthermore, the paper aims to describe and analyze possibilities of support and collaboration for/with refugee groups and individuals through artistic means, especially theatrical ones. The final part of the paper focuses on the perspectives of the refugees themselves towards the artistic process and the broader image of their experiences and struggles in the Romanian and EU contexts.

David Schwartz is a theatre artist and theoretician based in Bucharest, Romania. He is especially interested in counter-hegemonic perspectives towards local and global history, and the social and human impact of the post-socialist transition in Eastern Europe. He is the co-founder of the arts and politics magazine/website Gazeta de Artă Politică, co-initiator of the Political Theatre Platform, and a member of the self-organized artist and worker collective MACAZ — Bar Theatre Co-op. In 2016, he completed his PhD at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj, developing a research project on the political and ethical aspects of interactions between artists and so-called ‘subaltern’ groups and communities.

Azadeh Sharifi, A Manifesto for a Post-migrant Archive

‘Yesterday’s deconstructions are often tomorrow’s orthodox clichés.’ Stuart Hall

For a very long time, theatre by migrants and people of color in Germany wasn’t recognized by the mainstream (or the industry) and by German theatre studies. The same can be observed for many western European countries. For example, the British theatremaker Jatinder Verma once stated: ‘When it comes to Asian or Black Arts, there is no History, only “moments of significance”. So we lurch from moment to moment of visibility, separated by a void of invisibility’ (2003). This has changed, and is still changing in recent years through famous artists of color, new institutions, and venues.

In my upcoming post-doctoral Project ‘(Post)migrant Theatre in German Theatre History — (Dis)Continuity of aesthetics and narratives’, which I will be starting in Fall 2016, I am going to analyse migrant and postmigrant theatre from a historical perspective for the German theatre studies to gain new knowledge on aesthetic and narrative characteristics of (post)migrant theatre in their (dis)continuity. My project aims to draw a line from the beginning of migrant theatre to the contemporary postmigrant theatre with their relations and fractions. Postmigrant theatre is a label which has been created by the artists and founders of the theatre Ballhaus Naunynstraße in Berlin. The venue but also the label marks a historical moment in migrant theatre since it has been established now as an avant-garde theatre. The label postmigrant theatre indicates ‘stories and perspectives of those who themselves have not migrated but who have this migration background as part of their personal knowledge and collective memory’. And it also indicates that their works do not exclusively focus on their own ‘migration’ stories but rather on the society which is transformed by the phenomenon of migration.

I will present a manifesto on the ideas of why there is a need for an archive of (post)migrant and how I intend to create the groundwork. As the quote of Stuart Hall points out, I do not have the intention to re-write or re-create an archive which will only preserve a questionable lineal history. I want to think about a ‘Living Archive’ where boundaries between past, present, and future, between written and alternative traditions, and between the visible and the invisible, are intertwined.

Azadeh Sharifi is a researcher, writer, and activist. Her research interests include postmigrant theatre in Europe, cultural theory and minority discourse, postcolonial discourses in theatre, and performances of race and gender. From fall 2016, she will be a PostDoc researcher at the theatre department at LMU Munich, where she will work on ‘(Post)migrant Theatre in German Theatre History — (Dis)Continuity of aesthetics and narratives’. From 2014–15, Azadeh was a Fellow at the International Research Center ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’, Freie Universität Berlin. From 2011–14, she was a researcher on the Balzan Prize Project ‘The Role of Independent Theatre in Contemporary European Theatre: Structural and Aesthetic Changes’ by Prof. Dr. Manfred Brauneck, organized by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), Germany. She completed her PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Hildesheim in 2011. Her publications include the monograph Theater für Alle? Partizipation von Postmigranten am Beispiel der Bühnen der Stadt Köln (2011). She has published essays in the edited collections Theater und Migration (2011), Theaterpädagogik am Theater. Kontexte und Konzepte von Theatervermittlung (2014), and Migration and culture: politics, aesthetics and history (2015).

Małgorzata Sugiera, Performativity in Translation: The cultural mobility of words and ideas

(English text; Polish text)

Linking two words — performance and performativity — and their panoply of meanings in English and other languages, this paper looks at the issue of translation in the broad context of cultural mobility in an age of permanent connectivity. The concept of cultural mobility was introduced by Stephen Greenblatt in his edited volume Cultural Mobility (2010), and stems from his conviction that cultures are rarely coherent and self-contained, stable or fixed. Rather, they are shaped by vitally important dialectics of cultural persistence and change; they convey a sense of contingency that is intrinsic to all intercultural processes, which is counterbalanced by the illusion of fixity in practice. However, even if mobility studies, as posited by Greenblatt, should identify and analyze the ‘contact zones’ where cultural goods are exchanged, it gives agency, in large measure, to people and is localized mainly in biotic communities. Therefore, it leaves out those ‘contact zones’ where biotic and abiotic elements or agents make dynamic, interrelational assemblages.

For this reason, the paper redefines the concept of cultural mobility in order to include what anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing identifies in her book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015) as acts of translation across varied social and political spaces in which emerge shifting assemblages of humans and nonhumans, of biotic and abiotic elements. This type of assemblage differs significantly from Foucauldian discursive formations, as well as from Latourian interactional structures, intentionally designed networks. In Tsing’s assemblages symbiopoiesis and contamination dominate as unintended collaboration. She thinks of them as open-ended gatherings of multiple temporal rhythms and trajectories, potential histories in the making.

To describe and analyze such assemblages properly, any scholarly approach should be site-specific, that is, attuned to indeterminate encounters and thus nonscalable, going against the grain of most academic practices. For instance, it may involve leaving behind the prevailing concept of a singly authored monograph; self-contained, orderly, structured within clearly designed borders; linear, cumulative, and plausible in its argumentation. Is this possible? This paper also attempts to answer this question.

Małgorzata Sugiera is a Full Professor at the Jagiellonian University and Head of the Department for Performativity Studies. She lectured and conducted seminars at German, French and Swiss universities. She was a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, DAAD, Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna, Svenska institutet, the American Andrew Mellon Foundation, and in the academic year 2015–2016, of the International Research Center ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ at the Freie Universität in Berlin. Her research concentrates on performative arts, gender and queer studies as well as performativity and materiality, particularly in the context of the history of science. She published 12 monographs, the most recent of which are Upiory i inne powroty. Pamięć –Historia — Dramat (Ghosts and other Returns: Memory — History — Drama, 2005), Inny Szekspir (Other Shakespeare, 2009), Nieludzie. Donosy ze sztucznych natur (Non-humans: Reports from non-natural natures, 2015) and, together with Mateusz Borowski, W pułapce przeciwieństw. Ideologie tożsamości (In the Trap of Opposites: Ideologies of identity, 2012) and Sztuczne natury. Performanse technonauki i sztuki (Non-natural Natures: Performances of technoscience and arts, 2016). She translates scholarly books and plays from English, German, and French.

Nick Sweeting & Sarah Grange, Improbable: Past, present, and future

A brief history of Improbable — our shows and our processes — and a glance to the future as we plan our legacy. Over the last twenty years we have created shows ranging from small theatre pieces to vast outdoor spectacles to large operas. They have been produced and presented throughout the world from Sydney Opera House to London’s South Bank Centre to Brooklyn Academy of Music. The one thing that unifies all our projects is an instinct and sensibility that puts improvisation at the core of the creation process. We see improvisation in all its forms as a tool for social change. It is a deeply democratic art form that fosters a sense of community and empowerment amongst its participants and audiences alike and, in an age of increasing digital complexity, is determinedly live.

We are currently reflecting on and planning how this core process will influence our proposed legacy, the International Institute of Improvisation!. We are keen to engage in conversations across art forms and beyond with anyone who might be interested in the idea of what iii! might look like.

Improbable Theatre was founded by Julian Crouch, Phelim McDermott, Lee Simpson, and Nick Sweeting in 1996 and is currently led by Artistic Directors Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson. At the heart of its artistic practice is improvisation. Whether in performance, rehearsal, or development, the company uses the practice and philosophy of improvisation in the process of creation. Improbable sees improvisation in all its forms as a tool for social change. Improvisation is a deeply democratic art form that fosters a sense of community and empowerment amongst its participants and audiences alike and, in an age of increasing digital complexity, is determinedly live. The company has staged epic spectacles like Sticky, which was seen by over 250,000 people, theatrical classics like The Tempest at Northern Stage and the Oxford Playhouse, intimate puppetry like Animo in studios across the UK, adaptations like Theatre of Blood at the National Theatre, operatic works like Satyagraha at the English National Opera, London and the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and impro project Permission Improbable which nurtures an improvisation culture grown by women. Improbable’s shows are live events encouraging conversation between performers and audience. Since 2006, Improbable have also been using Open Space Technology to hold improvised conferences for arts practitioners and enthusiasts. Under the banner of ‘Devoted & Disgruntled’, these democratic gatherings have created a community of over 5000 creatives in the UK and beyond. For more information, see www.improbable.co.uk.

Nick Sweeting co-founded Improbable Theatre (UK) in 1996 and has produced all the Company’s performance projects to date. Over the last twenty years, Nick has also worked with a wide range of other companies and artists, including Told by an Idiot, Stan’s Café, London International Festival of Theatre, Hoipolloi, Mark Bruce Company, and dreamthinkspeak.

Sarah Grange is an Open Space Producer at Improbable Theatre (UK). When not looking after Devoted & Disgruntled and other Open Space Technology events, she works as a multidisciplinary artist — predominantly devising and writing for live performance. Previous work includes Snowblind, a cross-disciplinary piece about Arctic Exploration, and The Observatory, an opera for people who can hear and people who can’t.

Mischa Twitchin, ‘We went with this text to Stuttgart…’

Samuel Beckett’s work is often discussed not only in terms of translation between French and English, but of its potentially inherent bilingualism. Besides issues of literary translation, however, there is also the question of translation — or of an inherent translatability — between performance media, as between the potentials of page, stage, radio, and screen. This rich legacy of Beckett’s work also points to the post-war histories of different European national broadcasting policies, in relation to explicitly modernist or ‘experimental’ work. The commitment to public service broadcasting, to subsidy of arts programming, and to ‘minority’ audiences on mainstream media, has been under sustained attack especially since the ‘fall’ of the Berlin Wall in 1989–90.

Broaching the question of a ‘field of memory’ (as Beckett called the relation between stage and screen when preparing his last performance work What Where for television in Stuttgart in 1984), my presentation will consider critical questions of modernist aesthetics, particularly within changing conditions of production and reception in European television. The erstwhile imaginary of a distinction between a before and an after ‘the War’ — which provided a cultural horizon during the Cold War — has since transformed into a generalised ‘spectacle’ culture in which the question of memory has become not only aesthetically uncritical but has even been taken up by a new cultural politics of resurgent nationalism.

I will offer a research-manifesto, accompanying a short performance-film that explores Beckett’s aesthetic concerns in explicit contrast to the ‘production values’ of the Dublin film version of What Where. With these examples, I wish to raise questions about Reinelt’s advocacy of ‘literacies’ across media (and languages) — to explore how the aspiration for a ‘truly international performance culture’ (at least within the erstwhile ‘re-unified’ Europe) could, indeed, ‘avoid… being the agent of a globalisation of culture’.

Mischa Twitchin is currently a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellow in the Drama Department, Queen Mary, University of London, where he also completed his PhD (2013), which explored the concept of an iconology of the actor through the work of Tadeusz Kantor and Aby Warburg. A book developed from his thesis, The Theatre of Death: The Uncanny in Mimesis was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016, in their Performance Philosophy series. Mischa has taught at various institutions, including Goldsmiths College, Central School of Speech and Drama, and the University of Kent. Besides his academic work, he is a founder-member of the performance collective Shunt, and has worked as a freelance lighting designer. He also makes his own performance projects, examples of which are accessible on Vimeo.

Evelyn Wan, Prototyping Decolonial Practices: Speculative futures for Performance Studies

The future is not a destination but an object to play, experiment, and to speculate with. This presentation offers ideas in incubation as an open invitation to imagine together decolonial visions of the future for academic work. Drawing from speculative design, performance theory, and feminist and queer explorations of time and futurity, I discuss projects of the ‘not-yet-here’ nature (Muñoz) that aim to disrupt existing epistemic modes and academic styles from a decolonial perspective. These prototypes are designed not to solve problems, but to simply speculate how things could look like, and through that offer critique on the present.

One of these ongoing experimentations is Performance Studies international’s (PSi) ‘Future Advisory Board’ (FAB). As an emergent network, FAB is composed of early-career researchers from different parts of the world and aims to capture trans-generational visions, decolonial concerns, and pertinent research directions for the future through a bottom-up approach. I will offer reflections based on situated knowledge from my personal academic work to participating in the academic activism of FAB: what does the space of the ‘not-yet-here’ offer? What does the speculative achieve, and what if these prototypes completely fail?

Evelyn Wan is a PhD Candidate at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) at Utrecht University. Her research is supported by the R. C. Lee Centenary Scholarship from her hometown, Hong Kong. She holds a Research MA cum laude in Media & Performance Studies (2014) and an MA cum laude in Gender Studies (2011), both from Utrecht University. Prior to her postgraduate studies in the Netherlands, she graduated with First Class Honours from the programme Bachelor of Social Sciences (Government and Laws) at the University of Hong Kong. Her research covers a wide range of subjects including media philosophy, gender and post-colonial theory, new materialism, and affect theory. Evelyn currently heads the Future Advisory Board, an emerging scholar initiative within Performance Studies international (PSi), and is a member of [urban interfaces], an urban research platform at UU. Outside of her academic endeavours, Evelyn is a volunteer at Stichting de Vrolijkheid and works on theatre projects with asylum seeker youths. In the past, she has collaborated with various artists in staging contemporary dance and physical theatre productions and creating site-specific performances in Hong Kong. She was also a translator and copywriter for Hong Kong International Film Festival, and Taipei Documentary Film Festival.

Christel Weiler, Talking about or with the Other?

(English text; Polish text)

How to organize transcultural theatrical events on stage without talking about ‘the other’? This is a crucial question, which does not find too easily an answer.

In general, if we look at contemporary and historical examples, ‘the other’ is represented as a character, in relation to their peers and coevals, as a person of color, within a story, in a given situation, in connection with an existing ‘problem’, which has to be solved, reflected on, and so on. That means: the other would be constantly defined.

Current German attempts to deal with the ‘refugee crisis’ on stage might help to exemplify the pros and cons of what it means to open a space for ‘the other’ and make a contribution to giving voice to those who would be unheard of so far. Nonetheless, the biggest problem across all of these attempts may be seen in the fact that they cannot avoid defining and thus specifying concretely ‘the other’. How to escape from this pitfall? Is there any possibility at all, so long as we find ourselves in the theater? Could participatory theater be one way out, for example? Would ‘meeting the other’ create a balance and avoid ascriptions? What might this ‘meeting’ look like?

Christel Weiler has been Program Director at the International Research Center ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ at Freie Universität Berlin since 2008. She began her research on intercultural theatre in the 1980s, with a focus on the work of Robert Wilson and Eugenio Barba. Her current interests encompass a variety of postmigrant and postcolonial theatre work, especially in Berlin, as well as practices of transcultural cooperation, actor training, performance, and spirituality. She has published a monograph on Intercultural Theatre, various essays on contemporary theatre, co-edited a series of books on contemporary performance art/theatre, and together with Jens Roselt, a collection of essays on subjecthood and actor training/acting.

Yesim Yaprak Yildiz, Performing Truth and Subjectivity in Public Confessions

Confession is not solely a constative statement, that is, a declaration or an acknowledgement of a wrongdoing, but a performative speech act transforming the individual who utters it, the audience and the relation between them. As Foucault argued in his 1981 Collège de France lectures ‘Wrong-doing, Truth-telling’, it does not only tell what wrongdoing one did, but who one truthfully is. Throughout history, it has been a privileged form of truth telling producing subjectivities indexed to dominant social, moral, and political frameworks. Besides, confession is also a social act performed by an individual in front of an audience in order to produce a certain meaning. The effects that confession produces depend on both the way it is performed and its performative force. Using theories of performance and performativity and drawing upon Foucault’s account of confession, I aim to explore what public confessions of past atrocities do and what effects they bring in terms of responsibility and accountability for these acts. To do this, I will first discuss the theatrical aspects of confession including actor, acting, script, stage, and audience, and then analyse its performativity through Judith Butler’s and Jacques Derrida’s reinterpretation of Austin’s speech act theory.

Yesim Yaprak Yildiz is currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her doctoral research examines confessional performances of state officials on past atrocities with a focus on Turkey and state violence against Kurds. Yaprak is one of the conveners of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network, which aims to bring together people who are engaging with the concept of performance from literary studies and theatre to anthropology and politics. Yaprak received her Master’s degree in Social and Political Thought at the University of Warwick in the UK and her BSc in Political Science at Middle East Technical University in Turkey. She has been working on human rights violations in Turkey for over ten years. She has worked as a freelance researcher and consultant for UN Women, European Roma Rights Centre and Child Soldiers International. Previously she worked as a broadcast journalist at the BBC World Service and as a research assistant at Amnesty International.


Duncan Jamieson is an independent researcher, web developer, translator, and editor. He has taught at Rose Bruford College (2003–4), the University of Exeter (2006–9), and been a resident scholar at the Grotowski Institute (2008–12). In 2012, he co-founded TAPAC: Theatre and Performance Across Cultures, a nonprofit organization focused on building multilingual digital and publishing capacity in the field. Recently he has been developing a cross-cultural community platform — Culture Hub, now in beta — which provides a range of networking, translation, and content-sharing tools for use by practitioners, researchers, students, and organizations. He is co-editor of the peer-reviewed scholarly and artistic resource Polish Theatre Perspectives, and his articles and translations have appeared in journals such as Contemporary Theatre Review, Performer, Performance Research, and in books published by Bloomsbury, Routledge, and the Grotowski Institute, among others.

Adela Karsznia received her PhD in Theatre from the University of Wrocław, and professional diplomas in Translation (UNESCO centre for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication) and in Cultural Management (Association Marcel Hicter/Polish National Centre for Culture). She is a former acting Head Archivist and international publishing coordinator at the Grotowski Institute (2005–12), including the Icarus-Routledge book series, and is co-editor of Polish Theatre Perspectives (PTP), a peer-reviewed scholarly and artistic resource that investigates Polish theatre cultures — past and present — and situates them in dialogue with other world traditions of critical and creative practice. Her writing and translations have appeared in PTP, Didaskalia, Performer, Performance Research, and in several academic books, films, and edited collections. Since 2012, she has served as co-director of the nonprofit organization TAPAC: Theatre and Performance Across Cultures and of Culture Hub (in development) a new digital platform for multilingual exchange in the arts.