'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance
Jonas Tinius (Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin)
Alex Ungprateeb Flynn (University of California, Los Angeles)
James Thompson (University of Manchester)
Alan Turing Building G209
Friday 9 August, 9:00-10:00, 14:30-15:30, 16:30-17:30 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

This panel seeks to investigate the potential of theatre and performance to provide reflections on alterity, politics, sociality, and society. We explore how theatre and performance provide insight into the emergence of forms of protest, new forms of social relations, and societal aspirations.

Long abstract:

If all the world really is a stage, and we the players on it, then where do we position theatre and performance in this world? Social theory following Goffman, Bourdieu or Butler has theorised the importance of performative metaphors and notions of performativity for our understandings of identity, sociality, and politics. In this panel, we explore the creative pathways that a study of theatre and performance may open for anthropological enquiry. What do we understand by theatre and how does it differ from other performative events? What social forms and political events does theatre provoke? If some of the political potentials of performance are protest and ethical imaginations, what is the socio-political potential of institutionalised forms of theatre? What if theatre is understood as a broader category of intellectual and aesthetic enquiry into self-reflected understandings of embodiment and sociality? What may we learn about the relation between politics and aesthetics by attending to performance events and theatre?

In its potential to provide second-order reflections on society and sociality, theatre is important for how we analyse the emergence of protest, new forms of social relations, and aspirations of groups. By focussing on "humans who embody other humans", as Helmuth Plessner described it, theatre can provide a rich field for anthropological explorations of people's own reflections on humanity, sociality, and aspirations. We look to ethnographic analysis to explore the variety of actors', directors', and audiences' reflections on how to stage the world and thereby render the world a stage.