Towards a Post/Decolonial Theatre Studies? About life-long learning processes and rethinking the way we act“ By Sarnia van Capelleveen, Hidde Stobbe, Tai-Jung Yu
We, the New Critical Theatre Studiesare a group of German-speaking theatre and performance researchers based in different parts of Europe. We built this network with the aim to draw attention to the lack of postcolonial, decolonial, and critical race theory in German-speaking theatre and performance studies. This lack manifests in the field’s ignorance towards harmful legacies of racialized and colonial practices and discourses that still influence and are perpetuated by theatre-making practices and academic discourse. It also shows itself in the ongoing exclusion and marginalisation of racialised artists and their creative practices in German-speaking countries.
This is why we built this network as a tool of intervention: The Neue Kritische Theaterwissenschaft offers a platform for theatre researchers working with postcolonial, decolonial, and critical race theories to exchange ideas, to work and publish collaboratively, and to organise themselves in what is still understood to be a ‘niche’ and exists in the periphery. It offers tools and tutorials for a next generation of students on intersectional approaches and postcolonial and decolonial theories for the field of theatre and performance studies. Tools that until now are rarely taught in the German-speaking university classrooms but, as we know from our own teaching experiences, are in high demand in the current generation of theatre studies students. On our blog, we offer space and resources for students to publish or upload interviews with Black German theatre-makers and theatre-makers of Colour and discuss performances that address issues of race and representation, intersectionality, decoloniality that might not otherwise be reviewed by German mainstream media. In particular, we acknowledge the violent and racist structures of white academia and wish to offer our support to BIPOC theatre studies’ students: we encourage you to get in contact with us.
In recent years, there have been efforts to address the lack of diversity and antiracist practices in the German-speaking theatre system. These include attempts at increased representation, bias awareness and anti-racism training, as well as more publicised discourse on the urgent matters of decolonisation and antiracist activism. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for German-speaking theatre and performance studies. The research outputs and curricula of theatre studies in the German context is largely unaffected by an attention to the systemic nature of racialised discourses or legacies of colonial knowledge production. We believe that the question of decolonising the university the university is inseparably linked to defending the university’s role as a sphere of civic engagement and its responsibility to social and political struggles. We are therefore committed to understanding and practising academic research holistically - in and outside the academy, in and outside cultural spaces, in and outside classrooms of all kinds. Our ethos is anti-racist and feminist, and more broadly: intersectional.
In our endeavours, we stand on the strong shoulders of different thinkers, academics, artists and activists of Colour, whose writings and critical interruptions have inspired the establishment of this network. This is not to obfuscate the many powerful postcolonial, decolonial and critical race works, but to introduce some of the concepts, artistic practices and movements which have personally changed our ‘thinking as usual’ at specific moments in our lives. Therefore, we offer these reflections not as a definitive ‘reading list’ but as personal glimpses into intellectual, activist and creative encounters. It is our belief that attention to intersectional issues and the application of decolonial methodologies and antiracist practices should not be confined to a single discipline in theatre and performance studies. Instead, we aim to develop a methodological framework for the unquestioned inclusion of these issues into all forms of theatre and performance research, may it be theatre historiography, contemporary performance analyses or the production of theory. Our focus on the field of German-speaking theatre and performance studies is not exclusive to other regional theatre discourse. On the contrary, we know that similar gaps in theatre research can also be detected in Dutch, Belgian, Polish or Danish theatre studies. Rather than focusing on geographic and nation-state frameworks, we are committed to finding new epistemological approaches and inciting epistemic changes at large.