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Theatre and Performance Studies Research Events

Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick has an active research community. As well as having a departmental Research Seminar Series which meets twice-termly, there are regular events hosted by individual members of our community relating to their current research projects. Above you'll see a link to our 'Past Events'. From here you can find out about individual events hosted recently, but can also link to ongoing research project webpages.

Departmental Seminar Series

Every year Theatre and Performance Studies run a twice-termly departmental seminar series. The dates and times for the 2020/21 Theatre and Performance Studies seminar series are as follows:

Research Seminar, Wednesday 13 October 2021, 4.30-6.00 pm

Germany in the context of decolonisation

Speakers: Dr Pedzisai Maedza (Newton International Fellow-University of Warwick) & Dr Lisa Skwirblies (Post-Doc in Teaterwissenschaft, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich)

Red Flag Day: The duty to remember and the aesthetics of commemorative memory - Dr Pedzisai Maedza

Abstract: German colonisation of lands and people in what is today known as Namibia was effected through a war of conquest led by General Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha. From 1904 to 1908 German forces and the indigenous population fought a war that ended in what has been dubbed the first German genocide of the twentieth century. This war and genocide, which is sometimes called the forgotten genocide, left an estimated 80% of the Herero and 50% of the Nama population dead. Using the annual Red Flag Day commemorations as a case study this paper will trace how Herero communities have developed distinct public performance practices to remember, commemorate, contest and transmit the memory of this disavowed genocidal war. It will also suggest how the Red Flag Day can be read and understood as a cultural performance which both represents and shapes the memory of the past and the community’s relationship with the genocide, and its sense of self in the present?

Performing the Spirit of Bandung - Dr Lisa Skwirblies

Lisa Skwirblies (PhD), is a Post-doc researcher at the Theater Studies Department of the University of Munich on the ERC Project “T-Migrants". She holds a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick. In 2017 she was an Early Career Fellow at the IAS Warwick and between 2018 and 2020 held a Marie Sklodowska-Curie International Research Fellowship (“Horizon 2020”). Her research interests lie in the fields of theatre historiography, postcolonial theory, and their intersections. She is currently working on her forthcoming monograph Performing Empire. Theatre, Race, and the Colonial Culture of the German Empire, 1884-1913 (Palgrave 2022) and her second-book project European Stages of Decoloniality.

Abstract - This paper discusses the history of postcolonial student migration and the under-researched repertoire of decolonial protest performances in Cold War Germany. It shows how the recruitment of hundreds of African and Asian students in the mid-1950s to visit universities in the two Germanies led to political and performative interventions of the Global South students across the Iron Curtain and to political coalitions with the nascent West German student movement. From a specific theatre and performance studies approach, this article explores these decolonial protests through the lens of performance and argues for a new approach to protest culture, one that goes beyond static and reified conceptions and instead allows us to understand the immediate and material effects such protest techniques had for those protesting.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 24 Nov, 4.30-6.00 pm

Speakers: Chitra Sundaram (Department of Theatre & Performance, Goldsmiths College, London) & performer-researcher Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh

This seminar is being offered by dance-theatre practitioner and educator Chitra Sundaram (Goldsmiths, UK). It is part of a forthcoming series that Sundaram has conceived under the overall title 'The Politics of Choreographed Intimacies: Re-framing the beloved familiar'. Joining her from India, is a special guest artist Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh, performer, researcher and Prof of Practice, Literature and the Arts, KREA University, India.

Title: The Politics of Choreographed Intimacies
Dancing for Kings, ‘Nabobs’ and East India Company officers: Courtly Dance in pre-modern and cosmopolitan Southern India (17th-20th centuries).
If you can in advance, please look at the following to get a sense of the trajectory of work being undertaken:

Abstract -

Dance from India has for long posited to the world its ancientness, its textual treasure trove of ‘hard evidence’, and, above all, its special relationship to Hinduism’s great gods as its signature and validating hallmarks. Therefore, and often, Indian dance is all too easily and simplistically understood, glorified or dismissed as ‘ancient religious dance’ i.e. nothing to do with the now; devoid of human urge or urgency; somehow all ‘pure’ and divine; somehow innocent of strategies and negotiations necessitated by the complex political context of foreign rule and intersectionality of morality, social hierarchy, caste, gender, creed, breadwinning and wealth; somehow unfree.

In this seminar, we eschew the selective, sanitised, ‘sacred history’ of Indian dance, and make an exciting departure into herstory: we inquire into previously forbidden territory and nature of its avatar as Sadir dance in pre-modern and colonial India. Here, it presents as sophisticated entertainment in the cosmopolitan courts of kings, big and small, and in salons of courtiers and monied traders, all of them sponsors of arts.

Dance is seen here as a celebration of the Eros – a love for life itself, notwithstanding its troubles. And amid the hustle and bustle of courtly life, where ‘foreign’ colonial era Company Officers were both inserted or invited, we will see how—through the use of social and performative ‘codes’—the staged performance of love and desire achieved its abiding underpinning of ‘intimacy’. And how the dancers had their laughs too! (Such semiotics is still the preserve of Indian classical dance. And that’s a whole other ball of wool that's come unspooled.)

Biographies:

Chitra Sundaram is a dance-theatre educator and researcher, an actor trainer, dramaturg, mentor,
and more infrequently now, a stage performer and choreographer. She is Associate Lecturer in the
Department of Drama and Performance at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK.
Trained rigorously by the traditional masters of the Indian dance-theatre form Bharatanatyam, Chitra’s performance works, teaching and inquiry reflect her robust form-based questions as well as explorations in to other dance/theatre forms and their intellectual/aesthetic premises. Her critically acclaimed creations include: the subversively classical solo work ‘Moham –A Magnificent Obsession’ in bharatanatyam; the site-specific mixed-genres ensemble ‘Awaaz/Voice’ for Trafalgar Square festival; the social critique of ‘Sthreedom – The Good Wife’; a contemporary take on a grotesque Hindu myth in ‘Ahmas –The Immortal Sin a.k.a Skull’, commissioned by the Royal Opera House’s ROH 2 programme, which toured the UK with Soma Numa, and showed internationally. Chitra’s more traditional ‘Pashyamey –Behold Me!’ premiered at the South Bank Centre’s Alchemy Festival and was shortlisted for British Dance Edition (BDE). In the ‘80s, Chitra co-created and toured ‘Visions of Rhythm’ with South-African origin Corrine Bougaard (Founder, Union Dance Company), as one of the earliest “fusion” works in the UK.
Chitra’s research and teaching interests include the problems and potential of classical forms in cross -cultural and intergenerational transmission of cultural narratives; the effects on dance of the neo-nationalist project in India as post-truth ‘facts’ including its ‘classicism’ and ‘religiosity’ versus the 'proven aesthetic secularism of the texts invoked; the contemporary, western ‘realism’ and individual-based project of ‘authenticity’. Chitra was a long-time editor of Pulse, KadamUK’s South Asian dance (now also music) magazine, bridging academia, practitioner and dance aficionado, acquiring for Pulse
critical international standing and subscription. Chitra was Trustee and Member Governing Council of the international dance certification body, the ISTD, a venerable110-year old institution of dance from across the genres and the world. Chitra strongly resisted, and still resists, the use of the term
‘Imperial’ as she is an anointed ISTD Fellow in recognition of her services. Chitra was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) years ago but has recently neglected to pay her dues in time,trusting automatic bank debit–and is wondering about renewal and what ‘Royal’ means or should mean to British colonials and post-colonials, and what disjointed individual protests may achieve herethat may be useful to others. Chitra has, in the meanwhile, accepted the honour of an MBE, an order of the British Empire Award for services to South Asian dance.
Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh-
Swarnamalya is a combination of a performer with over 35 years of experience, a scholar of dance history as well as a trained academician in art practice and sociology. Her Ph.D dissertation was on “Research and Reconstruction of lost dance repertories of Early modern South India (NayakPeriod)”.In a pioneering effort she studied in-depth the history and sources involved in the lost performing traditions to reconstruct them. “From The Attic” is a performance-lecture-exhibition series based on her research. From collaborations with artistes of various genres to reflecting the multicultural historicity of dance and music in South India, FTA stands as a unique voice that speaks of inclusivity
and plurality as inherent values of performing traditions. Jakkini, Sivalila, Gondhali, Perani are some of her reconstructed repertoires widely appreciated.
Her recent performances in the UK under the auspices of Akademi, European Tourto Prague, Vienna and Germany as well as the most recent Australian Arts Council tour to perform at Asia Topa brought excellent visibility to . During the pandemic, she continued to offer tutorials and lectures for student communities and worked with folk artiste families on Covid Relief. Swarnamalya was one among the six chosen Indian artistes on whom a movie was produced by Arts Quotient and India Foundation for the Arts called #BehindTheSeen.
Her further research interests include Sadiras the subaltern form of Bharatanatyam through gender, culture, society, stigma and political movements. Her first book was titled Nammai Marandarai Naam Marakkamattom (Tamil) based on her very successful stage production of the same title, from Silappadikaram from the POV of Madhavi, the danseuse. She researched to bring to light the history of repertoires in early 20th century Madras, under her production Dancing in the Parlour. Her more recent production Choreographing Society- a tryst with destiny, raises critical questions around inherent inequalities; identities, stigma and the legal frame striving to relieve democracy from it.
As a writer and thinker, some of her eminent contributions to critical theories on performance historycall for interrogation of postcolonial scholarship through her on-going project “Decolonising dance history”, where she develops new and experimental methods of writing performance histories; Decolonising Dance History Project, Notions of Classical in Bharatanatyam, Sex and Gender in Performance, Mired in Dravidian Politics, Womanity, Daughters of Pandanallur– the other story.
In her professorial capacity, she has designed and taught courses such as Past Performing Practices, Art as History, Women in Performance, Literature and Media that cover archival writing practices andperformance in the study of the body and culture as a lived experience. Her more recent addition has been a workshop-style course on ditties and dances of folk and tribal cultures from across the world titled “Or MufLeh”. She is also a sought after speaker on topics pertaining to Education, art and culture.
As a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow for Academic and Professional Excellence, Swarnamalya went to UCLA toteach and pursue postdoctoral research. She is trained in Indian and Middle Eastern music, epigraphy,history and archaeology. She has received prestigious awards and fellowships for her contributions including the recent KREA-FacultyResearch Fellowship for 2020-21. She is currently Professor of Practice (Literature & TheArts), KREA University, India. She is also the Director of Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance/ Performance and Indic Studies which works at providing education in Performing Arts. Ranga Mandira run asa community radio for the arts and also creates a platform for sustainable development for the hereditary artiste communities. She has served as a visiting faculty atSASTRA University, Madras University, and a guest faculty to Ashoka University, Bridgewater State University (Boston), and Flame University in India. Fellow for Academic and Professional Excellence, Swarnamalya went to UCLA tteach and pursue postdoctoral research. She is trained in Indian and Middle Eastern music, epigraphy, history and archaeology. She has received prestigious awards and fellowships for her contributions including the recent KREA-FacultyResearch Fellowship for 2020-21. She is currently Professor of Practice (Literature & TheArts), KREA University, India. She is also the Director of Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance/ Performance and Indic Studies which works at providing education in Performing Arts. Ranga Mandira run asa community radio for the arts and also creates a platform for sustainable development for the hereditary artiste communities. She has served as a visiting faculty atSASTRA University, Madras University, and a guest faculty to Ashoka University, Bridgewater State University (Boston), and Flame University in India.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 10th March 2021, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: Re-membering assembly
Speakers: Louise Owen (Birkbeck, University of London) and Marilena Zaroulia (Central School of Speech and Drama)

Abstract: Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically compromised the possibilities and contours of collective assembly in the theatre. This jointly authored paper explores the conditions of theatrical assembly in the times we currently confront through analysis of Ben Duke’s In a Nutshell (The Place, 2020). Filmed in the auditorium of the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, In a Nutshell stages a series of recollections about theatregoing to a future audience of people for whom live theatre has ceased to be a reality. Though a monologue in form and function, Ben Duke’s piece and its interpellation of its imagined audience is premised on a notion of and commitment to theatre as a dialogic space across time and distance, in which the bodies of spectators play a critical role. Our response to the performance is based on a socially distanced viewing of the performance we undertook on 22 October 2020, in which we watched the piece simultaneously on YouTube while present together on Zoom. We bring our reflections on the work and its reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic into relation with this experience of spectatorship. We ask how the interrupted dramaturgies of both the piece and our socially distanced spectatorship re-invoke acts of collective assembly in the theatre, rendered temporarily out of bounds.

Biog: Louise Owen is Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research examines contemporary theatre and performance in terms of economic change and modes of governance. Her writing has been published in various edited collections and in the journals Performance Research, frakcija, Contemporary Theatre Review, and TDR. She co-convenes the London Theatre Seminar, and is director of Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery and co-director of the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre.

Biog: Marilena Zaroulia is Lecturer in Performance Arts at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. Her research focuses on theatre, performance and the cultural politics of post-1989 Europe. She is the co-editor of Performances of Capitalism, Crises and Resistance: Inside/Outside Europe (Palgrave 2015). Her work has appeared in various international journals and edited collections. She is one of the editors of Studies in Theatre and Performance and has just finished co-editing a special issue for the journal, entitled 'Towards Decentring Theatre and Performance studies' (spring 2021).

Past Events in 2020/21:

Book(s) Launch, Wednesday 14th October 2020, 4.30-6pm (online)

During this session we will celebrate the fact that researchers in Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick will have published five monographs in the six months from July 2020:

Nicholas Drofiak - Irusan: or, Canting for Architects, gta Verlag / eth Zürich

Milija Gluhovic - Theory for Theatre Studies: Memory, Bloomsbury

Nadine Holdsworth - English Theatre and Social Abjection: A Divided Nation, Palgrave

Silvija Jestrovic - Performances of Authorial Presence and Absence: The Author Dies Hard, Palgrave

Nicolas Whybrow - Contemporary Art Biennials in Europe: the work of Art in the Complex City, Bloomsbury

Each author will give a brief introduction to their book outlining the things that inspired them and the central arguments they make. There will be time to ask questions and to raise a virtual glass to this achievement.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 2nd December 2020, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: Disrupting negations of performativity: Motility, race and space in academic contexts
Speaker: Praveen Sewgobind

Abstract: Theorists Sara Ahmed and Fred Moten have both explored instances and processes of the negation of performativity. Moten’s profound assessment of nonperformance with respect to black bodies and Ahmed’s critical intervention as regards the non-performativity of diversity politics powerfully indicate how bodies of colour can arguably be desubjectified as they appear in spaces dominated by whiteness. My paper explores the bodily, spatial, and ocular conditions that give rise to the ubiquitous practice of bodies of colour undergoing ontological resistance from a racial visual regime that prohibits such bodies to become as motile as white bodies are. To do this, I will critically analyse academic spaces that often may seem to be “in transition” due to the promises and politics of diversity and inclusion efforts. Yet, as I will show, it will take more than altering the optics of an institution to counter the solid and insidious structures of whiteness. Phenomenological accounts as well as analyses of relevant academic texts from Fred Moten, Sara Ahmed, Shannon Sullivan, and Linda Martín Alcoff will elucidate some of the potential and strategic avenues in order to come to terms with and possibly even overcome the visual and bodily regimes emanating from the violence of hierarchized racialization of bodies of colour.

Biog: Dr. Praveen Sewgobind is an activist-academic working to deepen and complicate Critical Race Theory with a decolonial lens, focusing on the embodiment of white racism and social constructs of racial formation in the Netherlands. In the academic year 2020-2021 he will be performing research on racism in the Netherlands at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. More specifically, the project titled “Veiled Taxonomies and Ventriloquized Grammar: Unlocking Cultural Racism in the Netherlands” will investigate the workings of “ventriloquized racism,” i.e. racism that is packaged and disseminated as non-racist discourse but functions to centralise and uplift whiteness and Dutchness in the Netherlands. From September 2020 onwards, Praveen will organise and host the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis Critical Race Theory Seminar series (https://www.nicainstitute.com/critical-race-theory-seminar/).

Title: Stealing form my ancestors: the performance of restitution & reparation in European museum spaces
Speaker: JC Niala

Abstract: This paper takes its cue from Mwazulu Diyabanza, who was filmed in a viral video seizing African artefacts from the Musée du Quai-Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris, observing it as an act of attempted restitution. It also unpacks the removal of the Colston statue in Bristol as enacted reparation. Both of these protests were political and theatrical. They sit in direct contrast to an action carried out by a Nigerian man in the Museum of London who in frustration shook a case holding Benin Bronzes on loan from the British Museum, in the ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ gallery, whilst exclaiming that the artefacts should be returned home. It was a spontaneous moment that received no media attention.

Drawing on work that theorizes the use of drama as a tool to transform conflict, I examine these grassroots protests in the light of Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre. Furthermore, theatre as a tool of resistance has been described by Ngugi wa Thiong’o with the powerful example of Kenyan people’s theatre. I argue that these protests are an invitation, a call to the keepers of the legacy of the British empire to enter into the dramatization of ongoing forms of colonial expression in order to create a break from them and perform a decolonised future.

Biog: JC Niala is a writer and researcher of African and English material cultural heritage. She is currently working on a book entitled A Loveliness of Ladybirds which was shortlisted for the Nan Shephard nature writing prize in 2019. JC is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Warwick.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 20th January 2021, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: On border, identity and performance: an artist’s reflection from the field
Speaker: Taiwo Afolabi, University of Regina, Canada

Abstract: Migration is essential to human existence in this present ‘postnormal times’ characterized by chaos, contradictions, global displacement and neoliberal realities etc. From voluntary to forced migration, border shifts as living and non-living things move, and it is constantly being re/negotiated. Beyond physical or territorial border navigated in migration, cultures and arts transverse boundaries because people move with cultural practices, beliefs and traditions. For instance, as migrants’ cultural practices and art forms trans-border, culture becomes a mobile apparatus that constantly changes and shifts from one form to another. While researchers have largely focused on themes such as the relationship between border and governance, migration, securitization, historicity, visa regimes, borderland and culture, there is still knowledge base around the intersection of border and identity within performance discourse. In the presentation, I explore how experiences of migration and im/mobility find expression in my artistic practice. I investigate the notions of ‘shifting identities’ , ‘imagined communities’ to better understand root and routes and how arts conceive, perform and represent border in Africa. My reflection focuses on my artistic practices in Sub-Saharan Africa from a practitioner’s perspective with the inquiry: in what ways does border perform, (dis)connect, alter, shift, dissolve and (re)imagine identity? As an artist-researcher of African descent, my reflection on border, identity and race is both personal and political. Finally, in this presentation, I discuss the intersection of arts and border as “an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense” .

Biog: Taiwo Afolabi, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He is an applied theatre practitioner with a decade of experience working across a variety of creative and community contexts in over dozen countries across four continents. His practice and research interests include education, decolonization, socially-engaged creative practice, and research ethics. He is the founding artistic director of Theatre Emissary International, Nigeria and a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Title: Performance Therapy and Therapeutic Performance: Theorising Creative Healing Amongst Displaced Persons in Daudu, Benue State
Speaker: Shadrach Teryila UKUMA, Department of Theatre Arts, Benue State University, Makurdi - Nigeria

Abstract: This paper examines conceptualizations around the healing function of theatre and performance. It recognizes the various strands of creative art therapies including dance therapy, drama therapy, music therapy and art therapy, as well as sociodrama. Using the experience with victims of violent conflict suffering collective trauma in Daudu, who use cultural performances to negotiate their wellbeing, the paper attempts to conceptualize their holistic performative experience other than the isolated performance genres as commonly found in literature on the subject. The paper goes further to argue for the inherent transformative aesthetic quality of cultural performances. Using descriptive and performance ethnography approaches in qualitative research, the paper examines the self-created cultural performances mechanism for coping with collective trauma experiences in order to arrive at fresh theoretical considerations. It concludes that culture is at the centre of human actions and reactions, and within it there exists a pool of resources for solving societal problems, just as such resources can indeed be triggered internally. It observes that there should be a limit as to where concept affects contexts and vice versa. The paper recommends that context specific thinking should guide both discourse and praxis in engaging societal problems and solving them, especially as it is still within the same cultural matrix that these problems are created and as such approaches from a different cultural background might not work well.

Biog: Shadrach Teryila UKUMA is lecturer at Benue State University, Makurdi – Nigeria, in the Department of Theatre Arts. He recently obtained a PhD with a thesis titled “Cultural Performances: A Study on Managing Collective Trauma amongst Displaced Persons in Daudu Community, Benue State, Nigeria”, at the SDG Graduate School “Performing Sustainability: Cultures and Development in West Africa” hosted by the Universities of Hildesheim, Germany; Maiduguri, Nigeria; and Cape Coast, Ghana. His research interests include Cultural Performance, Transformative Aesthetics, Creative Peacebuilding, Cultural Entrepreneurship and Leadership, and Performance Therapy.Shadrach is a member of the African Theatre Association (AfTA), Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), and Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP).

If you want to find out more about these events, please contact Nadine Holdsworth (N.Holdsworth@warwick.ac.uk).

SCUDD Conference: Summer 2021

At the Standing Conference for University Drama Departments (SCUDD) annual conference on Zoom in July 2020, it was announced that Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick would be hosting the SCUDD conference in July 2021. This conference is being organised by Dr David Coates. Further details about the event will be released in January 2021, but please don't hesitate to get in touch with David if you have any queries about this event.