Summary of Keynote Address
This keynote will locate its critical discourse within this particularly troubled moment in time in the early twenty-first century with the rise of sectarianism, authoritarianism, and the larger global phenomenon of coercive migration. What is the role of theatre and the performing arts in engaging with this explosive and disruptive challenge to civility and the humanities in general? Focusing primarily on the phenomenon of interculturalism in performance practice, the lecture will begin by re-examining some critical moments from the late 1970s when the inequities of cultural exchange across borders were consolidated by the larger realities of globalization and nationalism. Working against the tropes of a largely unquestioned Eurocentricity, the lecture will then map the emergence of Asia-centric intercultural practices, which presumed to provide an alternative to Euro-American cultural capital only to reaffirm them in disguised ways. Cultural differences, as the lecture will argue, are not just determined by political borders, but by more intricate intracultural differences operating at the level of region, community, and locality. How do we account for the fact that the most virulent differences are those which seem to almost disappear into illusions of imagined homogeneities? How do neighbours become killers? Turning its focus on the larger crisis of refugees across the world, the lecture will reflect on how the ethos of hospitality needs to be reaffirmed through a critical reappraisal of a predominantly liberal understanding of interculturalism. The lecture will argue for a more reflexive openness to non-liberal modes of affirming cultural identity and heritage, as represented through the ecological wisdom of indigenous movements. It will also try and make a case for seeing the future of theatre in troubled times through a renewed awareness of the vitality of translation, at linguistic, kinetic and dramaturgical levels. How may we attempt to rethink our own practices and strategies in confronting the deadlock of existing conflicts in order to imagine new transformative possibilities of being?