From Trauma to Protest: Political Theatre in Comparison
What happens to you when you are declared ‚traumatised’? One thing seems rather clear: Doing political theatre doesn’t get easier. In Europe, this correlation can just be observed in the situation of refugees. Many theatre projects make the refugees and their concerns a subject of discussion, but nonetheless, it seems very difficult to find an adequate theatrical form for these concerns: In public discourse, the refugees are considered traumatised – and that gives rise to questions: Is it appropriate to present them in public? Can they be part of a theatrical performance? Do they belong to the stage? Isn’t it negligent to place refugees in front of a theatre audience? Starting from the present European debate around ‘theatre for refugees’, the talk will address past and present relations of trauma and protest in theatrical performances. Narratives of trauma have already been proven to be hard to politicise. All the more interesting are forms of political theatre that reject such narratives and manage to transform experiences of pain, injury, and grief into political protest.
Matthias Warstat is professor of Theatre Studies at Freie Universität Berlin since August 2012. After graduating in Theatre Studies and Modern History at Freie Universität Berlin (1999), he worked in a DFG-research network on “Theatricality as a Paradigm for Cultural Studies“ and finished his Ph.D. on theatrical aspects of early 20th century working class celebrations in 2002. In his habilitation thesis (2008) he analysed the dialectics of crisis and healing in avant-garde theatre and aesthetics. During the years 2006 to 2009, he also run a project on “International Theatre Festivals in Europe“ funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Between 2008 and 2012, he was chair of Theatre and Media studies at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. In 2012, he was awarded an ERC-Advanced Grant for “The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre”. His main research areas are contemporary theatre and society, theatricality of politics, and the historiography of modern European theatre.