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Is performance studies imperialist? Part 2

By Janelle G. Reinelt


Comment Is Performance Studies Imperialist? Part 2 Janelle Reinelt As Jon McKenzie’s TDR Comment, “Is Performance Studies Imperialist?” [50:4 (192) Winter 2006], went to press, I was preparing a keynote on a similar topic for “Performance Studies and Beyond,” a symposium held at the Grotowski Center in Wroclaw (December 2006) on the occasion of the translation into Polish of Richard Schechner’s Performance Studies: An Introduction (2002). The original title of my piece is “Toward International Performance Literacies.” [Ed. note: Richard Schechner’s response, along with reactions from Eugenio Barba, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Kusuhara Tomoko, William Huizhu Sun, Takahashi Yuichiro, and Diana Taylor will appear in the next issue.] What is needed educationally is not to learn that we are citizens of the world, but that we occupy particular niches in an unequal world. —Immanuel Wallerstein (1996:124) Asked to envision a future for performance studies in the new millennium, I respond that both theatre and performance studies must ultimately find a way to truly internationalize our research and our postgraduate education, tasks that I predict will not be easy, and some aspects of which will require a certain form of sacrifice. I’ll ask three questions: What would it take to develop international performance literacies? What does performance studies, as it is currently constituted, bring to the table as both assets and liabilities? What might constitute some concrete strategies for immediate uptake? The concept of “international performance literacies,” which I am arguing should be our goal, requires some unpacking. Literacy has been traditionally understood as the ability to read and write, in other words, to communicate through print culture. A larger view might see literacy as the ability to use language—to read, to write, to listen, and to speak. I intend something larger yet, building on what Patrice Pavis in 1982 called “Languages of the Stage” recognizing that visual images and embodied practices, cultural memories and momentary localized fads all constitute the languages of sociality, the communicative pathways of contact and comprehension in the theatre itself and in all of cultural production. In Performance Studies: An Introduction, Richard Schechner calls attention to “an explosion of multiple literacies. People are increasingly ‘body literate,’ ‘aurally literate,’ ‘visually literate,’ and so on. [. . .] These multiple literacies are ‘performatives’” (2002:4). I’ve deliberately chosen the word “international” when I might have chosen “global” or “transnational” instead. There are several ways to negotiate this terminological terrain, but I propose here a certain politics for performance scholars in which “globalization” connotes the economic advance of transnational capital as an integrative mechanism that constitutes a Comment Janelle Reinelt is Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick. Formerly, she was Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and President of the International Federation for Theatre Research from 2003 through 2007. She is a former Editor of Theatre Journal, and serves on the advisory board of theatre journals in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. With Brian Singleton of Trinity College, Dublin, she edits a book series for Palgrave/Macmillan entitled “Studies in International Performance.” She has published widely on contemporary British theatre, feminist theatre, and the politics of performance. Her current project is a book with Gerald Hewitt on the politics and dramaturgy of David Edgar. TDR: The Drama Review 51:3 (T195) Fall 2007. ©2007 New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 8 Comment significant problematic, something to be understood and often struggled against; while “transnational” indicates movements across national borders and bears traces of those scholars who think the nation state is an anachronism. Believing that the nation continues to play a central role in both globalization and movements of transnational capital, goods, and information, I prefer the older, even old-fashioned term “international,” understanding international to mean pursuing interconnections and cooperation across cultural and national lines, fostering comparativist research, developing cosmopolitan methodologies and perspectives with regard to our national and local scholarship, and seeking to understand and critique the complex and ever-shifting global context within which we live and work. This word, “international,” poses its own difficulties, as I am well aware. Not only is the meaning of..

Topics: PN2000
Publisher: M I T Press
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