Theatre As Method: Engaging Publics on Racism and Resistance

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Valerie STAM, Carleton University, Canada
In this presentation, I critically examine the participatory project “Theater School on Resistance”, a fourteen-week theatre-research project conducted in Rotterdam, the Netherlands as part of my research with second-generation Black and Muslim youth on belonging, citizenship and resistance. Drawing on Augusto Boal (1979) and Paulo Freire (2002), I collaborated with a grassroots creative arts organization to develop and deliver a program facilitating critical conversations around oppression and resistance.

In the context of migration in Europe, second-generation racialized and Muslim youth navigate varying barriers to belonging and citizenship: while they hold de facto (legal) citizenship, their de jure citizenship (social membership) is questioned (Arendt, 1951; Somers, 2008). Drawing on examples from the Theatre School, I look at whether theatre is an effective method for 1) facilitating public dialogue and 2) resisting processes of othering such as racism and Islamophobia.

Both the Theatre School training and the co-production and performance of a final play provided an opportunity for Black and Muslim youth to participate in, and facilitate, public conversations on resistance, oppression, and belonging. This presentation will examine the ways in which participatory theatre allows and disallows for expressions of subjectivities, citizenship, and resistance. It will also analyze performative ethnography’s potential to reach different publics for dissemination, public engagement, and policy change. Through participatory theatre, this project interrogates normative notions of citizenship and highlights how second-generation young people practice citizenship and resistance in alternately conforming and critical ways.

Arendt, H. (1951). The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich.
Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Theatre Communication Group.
Freire, P. (2002). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniv). New York: Continuum.
Somers, M. R. (2008). Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Statelessness, and the Right to Have Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.