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Accepted Paper:

A Respite from Reality: Muslimness, Masculinity, and Marginality when Devising Theatre in Manchester  
Asif Majid

Paper short abstract:

Examining two unexpected moments from a six-month theatre-making process with British Muslim youth in Manchester in late 2017, this paper highlights negotiations of British Muslimness, masculinity, and marginality, rendering the theatre workshop a respite from dominating sociopolitical realities.

Paper long abstract:

Devised theatre often seeks to create new performance based on the experiences of collaborating participants. Yet, it also results in unexpected moments that are tangential to the desired creative product. These unexpected moments tend to be cast aside in artistic creation, but they can be the heartbeat of ethnographic inquiry. Attending to such so-called "affective residue" (Cavanagh, 2013: 287) can offer insights into the social worlds of the individuals being worked with, and ultimately into the communities from which they hail. To that end, this paper draws on a six-month theatre-making process with British Muslim youth in Manchester in late 2017. It focuses on two such unexpected moments from a workshop early in the process. Coming back-to-back and instigated by a single male collaborator, these moments gesture to the different ways that theatre-making workshops can be a respite from reality. Indeed, each moment related to a problematic sociopolitical narrative with which British Muslim young men are associated: "conservative cultural politics" and "extremism" (Bayat and Herrera, 2010: 4). Yet in both cases, the incidents demonstrate how collaborators saw the workshop as a negotiated and relational space of relief from these overwhelming sociopolitical narratives -- a counterpublic space of "withdrawal and regroupment" (Fraser, 1990: 68) -- perhaps because the more "dramatic" narrative was being played out in the contemporary British public sphere. Ultimately, attending to these two unexpected moments highlights the social and interpersonal ways in which British Muslimness, masculinity, and marginality were negotiated in a community-based process of ethnographic theatre making.

Panel P173
Exceptional Experiences: New Horizons in Anthropological Studies of Art, Aesthetics and Everyday Life
  Session 1 Thursday 23 July, 2020, -