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Updated: Nov 10, 2020


A one-day Symposium bridging theory and practice at TRAMWAY Glasgow

Bridging research and practice, this symposium aimed to directly relate scholarly research to contemporary professional work and social community enterprises, asking how they might usefully inform each other.

  • How do theatre makers and artists collaborate across borders and contest the current politics of exclusion?

  • How are borders performed, and by whom? What are the ethical implications when borders become sites of contestation?

  • What is at stake in narratives, images and stagings of border crossing bodies?

  • What can performances of a post-national identity look like?

  • What are the specific questions we need to address when talking about “European” identities and borders?

Across the world, exilic thought– broadly defined, and including any debate on the spaces, sites and status of a person performing ‘outside a border’ – has been instrumental in enabling exiles and hosts to imagine and demand political and cultural change. This symposium will be dedicated to tearing down the borders of exclusion for authors of theatre, theory and politics and re-imagining possibilities in a post-national world.

Recent political events such as last year’s referendum on Britain’s EU membership, the ongoing struggles about the influx of new arrivals into Europe and legal restrictions imposed on their movements across borders require us to reconsider what “Europe” and its values actually mean.

The closing and opening of borders, economic imbalances between the European Union’s constituent countries, the rise of nationalist, xenophobic and populist movements, independence campaigns and struggles of ‘nations’ within nations, as well as controversies about statehood and citizenship are not new discourses. They do reopen old wounds, which many of us felt, had permanently healed. These political urgencies propel us to rethink the representational regimes in which we operate on a daily basis and which play a crucial role for our ideas of nationhood, belonging and identity.

Borders in their various forms – whether regional, national, cultural, virtual, bureaucratic or linguistic – do not only function as a continuous political element in defining nations, they are also fatal sites of contestation and struggle. At the same time, however, many artistic interventions serve to demonstrate that borders can become sites of resistance and gestures of solidarity especially for those whose bodies are arbitrarily made “illegal”. Theatre, performance and other contemporary arts practices continue to pose questions of national identity and seek to imagine and establish alternative spaces for thinking about borders and belonging.

We aimed to provide a collaborative space for new scholars from across the humanities to come together with performance artists and activists from Glasgow’s vibrant cultural scene and marginalised, more than often unrepresented members of our shared community. In that, they can exchange their professional knowledge, languages, and individual stories – stories that may not only be crucial to the participants’ research outcomes but to the ways of how we will have to shape our society in the future. We aim to provoke fresh questions around the actors, sites and practices of exile as movement, as transgression of spatial and political boundaries that lead to affective, sensorial and intimate knowledge of the other/one another.

This symposium aims to provide a platform where new scholars from interdisciplinary research areas can develop their own research practice further, and where they can engage actively and creatively with communities beyond academia. We aim to offer new insights, drawn not primarily from texts usually considered part of the exilic canon, but rather from lesser-known, though significant, authors and groups. In considering a broad openness in participation, we will consider not only academics and playwrights, but also activists and politicians who have worked in Calais and Lesbos. Our keynotes will be given by the internationally renowned academic researchers Emma Cox (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow).

This symposium has been kindly funded by the Collaborative Research Award, College of Arts, University of Glasgow.

Professor Alison Phipps from Glasgow University opened the Symposium at the TRAMWAY THEATRE in Glasgow with her keynote speech:

Dancing under Duress: Multilingual Devising and Migratory Aesthetics

What happens to languages under the pressure of globalization and forms of colonialism and imperialism. The global order of things presents a world demanding clarity, control, and coherence. This calls subjects into relationships where certain performativities are brought into being through systems of accountability and of punishment. The category of the indigene and the category of the refugee are most particularly implicated in this order as their right to land and their experience of the loss of the land both bring particular ways of presenting the self to those tasked with ordering things. The ever increasing development of bordering practices and controls further constrains the room for speech and movement of the refugee and of the indigene.

Drawing on the 3 year £2 million Arts and humanities Research Project: Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Languages, the Body, Law and the State, this paper will narrate the ways in which research has intervened and worked intentionally against the demands for clarity, coherence and control in three contexts: that of rural Ghana; that of the Gaza strip and that of refugee integration in Europe, notably Calais and resettlement programmes in Scotland.

"The way multilingual environments may become sites of resistance, mobilization and confidence through dialogic multilingualism will be key elements of the paper. Drawing on Arendt, Agamben and Ricoeur this page will consider the migratory aesthetics and relationships which are formed in common ‘makings’ through virtual and placed relationships".


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