Theatre's Counterpublics: Palestinian Theatre in the West Bank after the Oslo Accords
Date: 11 December 2015
University of Exeter
PhD in Drama
Since the 1990s, Palestinian theatrical activities in the West Bank have expanded exponentially. As well as local productions, Palestinian theatre-makers have presented their work to international audiences on a scale unprecedented in Palestinian history. By tracing the history of the five major theatre companies (Al-Kasaba Theatre, ...
Since the 1990s, Palestinian theatrical activities in the West Bank have expanded exponentially. As well as local productions, Palestinian theatre-makers have presented their work to international audiences on a scale unprecedented in Palestinian history. By tracing the history of the five major theatre companies (Al-Kasaba Theatre, Ashtar Theatre, Al-Harah Theatre, The Freedom Theatre and Al-Rowwad) currently working in the West Bank, this groundbreaking project examines the role of theatre-makers in the formation of ‘abject counterpublics’. By placing theories of abjection and counterpublic formation in conversation with each other, this dissertation argues that theatre in the West Bank has been regulated by processes of social abjection and, yet, it is an important site for counterpublic formation. In this way Palestinian theatre has played an integral role in the formation of an abject counterpublic, a discursive and performative space in which theatre-makers contest Zionist discourse and Israeli state practices. What tactics, I ask, do theatre-makers use to disrupt, subvert and/or bypass the Zionist public sphere? What counter-discourse emerges from this site? How is such a counter-discourse articulated in performance spaces? And how does Palestinian theatre, in the logistical sense, work against a dominant discourse of erasure as well as continue to operate under conditions of settler-colonialism? This dissertation is the first major account of Palestinian theatre covering the last thirty years. Taking the end of the first intifada (1993) as its point of departure, and using original field research and interviews, this project fills a major gap in our knowledge of contemporary Palestinian theatre in the West Bank up to the present. The original contribution of my research to the fields of theatre studies and Palestine studies are twofold. Firstly, Reuven Snir’s Palestinian Theatre (2005) is currently the only book-length study up to the end of the first intifada. Whereas Snir’s book is limited to archival sources, my arguments rest upon original fieldwork (interviews, participant observation, performance analysis and case studies) carried out in the West Bank in 2014 and 2015. As such, it provides a richer, bottom-up analysis of theatre-making. Secondly, by introducing the term abject counterpublics and by placing the voices of theatre-makers at the centre of its enquiry, this study broadens discussions on abjection and counterpublic formation in Palestine.
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