Presenting the past for the future: performing German-Czech borderland histories
Kerstin Pfeiffer (Heriot-Watt University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the ways in which bilingual theatre projects along the German-Czech border can serve as vehicles for engagement with the area's difficult past and with the hopes for the future that the organisers and participants attach to them.
Paper long abstract:
For centuries, a clear, stable yet porous border has existed between Bohemia and Bavaria that allowed for economic and cultural exchange. Yet during the past 80 years, relationships between the two neighbours have been overshadowed by the atrocities of the Nazi regime, the expulsion of the German-speaking minority from Bohemia after World War II, and Cold War divisions. This paper presents an ethnographic exploration of the ways in which theatre projects along the German-Czech border encourage young people to engage with and to bring to life in performance difficult memories and public narratives of the past in this area. It focuses on the Čojčland Theaternetzwerk Böhmen-Bayern, a German-Czech cultural network which organises bilingual theatre workshops for young people aged 14 to 26 from both regions. Through interviews and (performance) observation, this paper examines the significance that participants and project leaders attach to their engagement with memories, testimony and shared cultural histories in the Bavarian-Bohemian border region as a productive process (Rothberg 2009). It explores their perceptions of theatre workshops and performances as liminal spaces (Fischer-Lichte 2004) in which differences - linguistic, cultural, historic- are temporarily suspended and can give way to a different future: one that is characterised by cross-cultural cooperation and and old yet new regional (cultural) identity. In doing so, I seek to illustrate that engagement with the past in the performative present is an integral part of the network's understanding of itself and of its role in shaping the borderland future.
Materializing the past and imagining the future