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Rashna Nicholson

Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies 


Phone: +44 (0)24 7657 3100

Faculty of Arts Building
University of Warwick,
Coventry, CV4 7HS.

Office Hours

Tuesdays 2-4pm (in my office)


Rashna Darius Nicholson is a cultural historian who holds a PhD (summa cum laude) in Theatre Studies from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and an MA in Performance Studies from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the University of Copenhagen. Rashna joined the University of Warwick after five years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong where she was recipient of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council Early Career Award and two University of Hong Kong early career research awards. Prior to her work in Hong Kong, she was a junior research fellow at the ERC-Developing Theatres project at the University of Munich. In recent years, she has been a fellow at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, and the National Humanities Center. Her research and teaching specialisations include nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first century theatre history, historiography, and practice; postcolonial and world literature; and cultural development. Rashna currently serves on the editorial boards of Theatre Research International, Pamiętnik Teatralny, The Journal of Global Theatre History, and Palgrave Macmillan’s Transnational Theatre Histories series. She was convenor of the IFTR Historiography Working Group between 2017 and 2020.

Research Interests

Rashna’s research and teaching interests are geographically and thematically wide-ranging. Her first monograph, The Colonial Public and the Parsi Stage: The Making of the Theatre of Empire (1853-1893), is the first comprehensive history of the Parsi theatre – a pan-Asian, commercial theatre industry that gained renown as the predecessor of numerous ‘modern’ Asian theatres such as the Komedie Stamboel and Bangsawan and the Indian cinema industry. The book is winner of the Theatre Library Association George Freedley Memorial Award Special Jury Prize and finalist of the TAPRA David Bradby Monograph Prize and the ASTR Barnard Hewitt Award in 2022.
Rashna’s second major research project entitled The Festival of India: Development and Diplomacy at the End of the Cold War is forthcoming in Cambridge University Press’ Elements in Theatre, Performance and the Political series. The work tells the story of the Festival of India (1985-1986) in the United States, one of the biggest events ever mounted to promote goodwill and understanding between two countries. The text delineates how this multi-sited spectacle of unprecedented size and near unfathomable political, economic, and cultural influence impacted theatre and performance studies. Simultaneously, it traces how two complex historical shifts were communicated to the global public at the end of the Cold War: India’s desire to transition from planned Nehruvian socialism to laissez faire capitalism and the efflorescence of the model of ‘cultural development’ that centred the arts in development.
Rashna has also worked on other topics such as the history of US and European funding to Palestinian theatre; Hong Kong visual art produced during the 2019-2020 protests; the performance of care in India during the COVID pandemic; theatre historiography; and decolonisation and theatre history. Her third major research project reassesses the emergence of Performance Studies against the backdrop of the Cold War, the rise of cultural development programs in Asia, and the work of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. She is also currently working on journal special issues on theatre historiography and decolonisation and regularly publishes her research in the Indian independent newspaper The Wire. She welcomes prospective postgraduate applications on a range of topics not exclusively pertaining to those listed above.


  • PhD Theaterwissenschaft (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
  • MA Erasmus Mundus - Arts du Spectacle Vivant (Université Libre de Bruxelles and University of Copenhagen)
  • BA English Literature (St. Xavier's College, Mumbai)

Professional Associations

  • Member of the International Federation for Theatre Research.
  • Convenor of the IFTR Historiography Working Group, 2017-2020.
  • Member of the American Society for Theatre Research.
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


  • English (fluent)
  • Italian, French, Hindi, Marathi (C1)
  • German, Gujarati (B2)
  • Portuguese, Arabic (A1)

Selected Publications


The Festival of India: Development and Diplomacy at the End of the Cold War, Elements in Theatre, Performance and the Political, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming in 2024).

The Colonial Public and the Parsi Stage: The Making of the Theatre of Empire (1853-1893), London: Palgrave Macmillan, (2021). 

Journal Articles

‘Decolonization and Theatre History’, New Theatre Quarterly, 39:4 (2023), 355 - 376.

‘“Does the Prime Minister Care?”: Gestural Generosity and the Doubly Fictitious Commodification of Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic’, Performance Research, 27:6-7 (2023), 128-135.

‘Banal Profundity and Profound Banality: Three Exercises in Reading Hong Kong’, TDR: The Drama Review, (Summer 2022), 158-173.

‘On the (Im)Possibilities of a Free Theatre: Theatre Against Development in Palestine’, Theatre Research International, 46:1 (March 2021), 4-22.

‘“A Christy Minstrel, a Harlequin, or an Ancient Persian”?: Opera, Hindustani Classical Music, and the Origins of the Popular South Asian “Musical”’, Theatre Survey, 61:3, (September 2020), 1-20.

‘The Picture, the Parable, the Performance and the Sword: Secularism’s Demographic Imperatives’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41:12 (June 2018), 2197-2214. 

‘Troubling Englishness: The Eastward Success and Westward Failure of the Parsi theatre’, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, 44:1, (November 2017), 75-91.

‘From India to India: The Performative Unworlding of Literature’, Theatre Research International, 42:1 (March 2017), 5-19. 

‘Corporeality, Aryanism, Race: the theatre and social reform of the Parsis of Western India’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 38.4 (December 2015), 613-638.

Book Chapters

'Theatre against development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories', Developing Theatre in the Global South
Institutions, networks, experts, eds. Nic Leonhardt and Christopher B. Balme, UCL Press, 2024.

‘Italian impresarios, American Minstrels and Parsi Theatre: Sonic Networks and the Negotiation of Opera in Colonial South and Southeast Asia’, The Cambridge Companion to Opera and Globalization, eds. Axel Körner and Paolo Kuehl, 2022, 214-238.

‘Canonizing Impulses, Cartographic Desires and the Legibility of History: Why Speak of/for Indian Theatrical Pasts?’, The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography, eds. Tracy Davis and Peter Marx, London and New York: Routledge, 2020, 186-205.

‘What’s in a name?: The Performance of Language in the Invention of Colonial and Postcolonial South Asian Theatre History’, The Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography, eds. Claire Cochrane and Joanna Robinson, London: Bloomsbury, 2019, 199-209.

‘The Picture, the Parable, the Performance and the Sword: Secularism’s Demographic Imperatives’, Islamophobia and surveillance: genealogies of a global order, London: Routledge, 2019, 73-90


Rashna welcomes expressions of interest from prospective students who wish to pursue a postgraduate degree in Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick. She is interested in supervising projects on a range of topics not exclusively pertaining to her areas of expertise. If you are interested in pursuing a research degree, please write to Rashna via email about the possibility of developing a proposal.



From Text to Performance (1st Year, Module Convenor)

TAPIC (1st Year)

Ways of Doing (2nd Year)

Theatre and Colonialism (Third Year)

Awards, Grants and Fellowships

Theatre Library Association George Freedley Memorial Award Special Jury Prize, 2022.

TAPRA David Bradby Monograph Prize, Finalist, 2022.

ASTR Barnard Hewitt Award, Finalist, 2022.

Junior Research Award, Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong, 2022.

Luce East Asia Fellow, National Humanities Center, Spring 2022.

Barbro Klein Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Fall 2021.

Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, Early Career Award, 2021.

Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, Competitive Early Career Scheme, 2020.

Junior Research Award, Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong, 2020.

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Fellow, Rockefeller Archive Center, 2019.

Doris Zimmern HKU-Cambridge Hughes Hall Fellow, University of Cambridge, 2018.

HKU Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research, HKU, 2018.

Research Grant awarded by the European Research Council Project ‘Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945’, LMU Munich, 2017 – 2018.

Fellow, Graduiertenkolleg Funktionen des Literarischen in Prozessen der Globalisierung, 2012 – 2016.

Associate Fellow, Institute of Global Theatre Histories, LMU Munich, 2012 – 2016.