Rethinking labour and the creative economy: global performative perspectives

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Concept note

How ‘fluid’ are the conditions of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and destitution across the world today? Are so-called ‘First World’ economies preoccupied with the realities of precarity, or precarious existence, now beginning to catch up with the chronic poverty in the cultures of the South? Or, would it be more accurate to say that while there may be a ‘First World’ in the ‘Third World’ through new insertions of affluence, and a ‘Third World’ in the ‘First World’ through new forms of underemployment and invisible poverty, that the economic and cultural imbalances of these worlds remain more or less intact? These imbalances are further enhanced by the existing hegemonies of cultural and electronic capital, which in turn are articulated through diverse understandings and practices of ‘performance’ – articulations in which the intellectual capital of global critical theory is thoroughly, yet deceptively, embedded.

The primary purpose in holding an international conference on labour and the creative economy at the School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA) on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is to attempt a critical dialogue on how some of the most tenacious categories of the social sciences around ‘labour’ and the ‘economy’ can be interrogated at performative levels. In the context of a growing Euro-American discourse on the performativity of labour, as evident in recent issues of ‘Labour and Performance’ (Performance Research, January 2013) and ‘Precarity and Performance’ (The Drama Review, December 2012), it would be useful to question the viability of this discourse in complicating some of the norms and dominant critiques of the global and creative economy, which have been consolidated in the social sciences over the years.

As yet, the interface of performance studies and the social sciences in the Indian context has been extremely limited, with the social sciences (particularly powerful in JNU’s Marxist-Communist-dalit ideological environment) almost monopolizing the discourse on ‘hard’ socio-economic realities, with ‘performance’ relegated to the relatively ‘soft’ domains of theatre practice and creative expression. While the critique of a neo-liberal economy elicits a ready consensus across a wide spectrum of theatre workers and social scientists, it is quite another matter to assert in a public forum that there are performative perspectives on labour and the economy which are not adequately confronted or even acknowledged in the Indian social sciences.

In this regard, key performative concepts relating to ‘affect’, ‘corporeality’, ‘embodiment’, ‘movement’, ‘self-exploitation’, ‘immaterial labour’, and ‘cruel optimism’ have a catalytic role to play in destabilizing some of the assumptions that have been consolidated over the years by the established Indian Left, in perpetuating earlier theories of class, workers’ movements, and trade unionism. More recently, through the important interventions of dalit cultural theory, pertaining to the most downtrodden sectors of low-caste communities, there are more tacit explorations of labour specifically in relation to the politics of humiliation and hurt.

Counterpointing the post-Fordist, post-industrial context in which most Euro-American constructions of labour and the economy are positioned, the Indian context provides a much vaster panorama of contradictory situations and contexts of labour, ranging from the most dehumanized forms of pre-industrial, pre-modern labour to the emergence of new global hubs in the hinterlands of metropolitan cities, where state-of-the-art technologies and services are mobilized to create global products. The steady encroachments of the global economy in contemporary India, along with the weakening of unions and the privatization of the labor sector, coexist with the harshest and most brutal forms of manual labor (including scavenging, garbage collection, construction work, and non-irrigated agriculture). The conference will highlight these disparities both within the Indian economy and in relation to other economies in the world where the global meltdown has initiated new forms of resistance to the fundamental tenets of capitalism.

How can one forge new alliances in envisioning different modalities of resistance, which come with their own strategies, methodologies, and technologies? Instead of seeking ‘solutions’ through new formations of global civil society, it would be useful to open up new assertions of ‘political society’ functioning outside the tenets of citizenship and the discourse of rights. Even more urgently, it becomes necessary to juxtapose the much-publicized ‘performances’ of new movements like Occupy Wall Street with people’s movements in India relating to the opposition to dams and slum clearance, which are embedded in local and regional politics with tenuous links to larger global agendas. How are the performativities of these diverse movements shaped and mobilized? And to what extent can their discursive structures and modes of organization be translated across locations and contexts?

It is through the active and dialogic confrontation of such questions that this conference provides a platform for diverse perspectives to be shared on how the performance of labour and the creative economy can be troubled and transformed through critical thinking and practice.


Conference director

RUSTOM BHARUCHA is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin and Terror and Performance. The last publication was researched while he was a Fellow at the International Research Center/Interweaving Performance Cultures in Berlin, Germany, between 2010-2012.

A leading interlocutor in the area of intercultural performance, both at theoretical and practical levels, he has also attempted to redefine the relationship between culture and development through a number of workshops with marginalized communities in India, the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa on issues relating to land and memory, the politics of touch, violence/ non-violence and social transformation.

A former advisor of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in the Netherlands, he has served as a consultant for the Arts Council in Ireland on cultural diversity in the arts, as well as for Ford Foundation on its interdisciplinary and multicultural Artography project in the United States. More recently, he has worked as the Project Director of Arna-Jharna: The Desert Museum of Rajasthan devoted to the study of traditional knowledge systems, and as the Festival Director of the Inter-Asian Ramayana Festival at the Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Research in Pondicherry.

Budhan Theatre: Creative Labour for Change

Dakxinkumar Bajrange

Budhan Theatre is a theatre group committed to resistance and to the exposure of more than 100 years of aggression and oppression on Denotified and Nomadic Tribes in India. It is committed to voicing the social and political issues of DNTs in order to demand constitutional rights from the Indian state that were denied in the framing of the Constitution. Today Budhan Theatre appeals to its spectators with a strong plea: We are not ‘Born Criminal’ (as defined during colonial rule in India), we are ‘Born Actors’.

My presentation will focus on a small tribe called the Chhara, which was classified as a ‘Criminal Tribe’ in 1871 during colonial rule in India and then declared a De-notified Tribe by the Government in 1952. It takes into account a cultural movement towards freedom, adopted by the Chhara in their struggle against a dehumanizing and oppressive status in society, particularly in the legal and political arenas. This first-hand account draws on my living history as a Chhara in my ongoing work as an artistic director of a community theatre called Budhan Theatre.

My talk will examine the community’s use of theatre as a means of disrupting the discrimination rooted in oppressive colonial histories. I will discuss the process of labor that goes into the making of plays based on community issues whose actors are normally regarded as ‘non-actors’, who improvise their plays based on their real-life experiences. In return they want social and political change, with no economic profit associated with their performative labor. In contrast to the entertainment theatre industry, the cultural practice of Budhan Theatre offers different goals and perspectives, ideals and strategies, which I would like to share in my presentation.

Dakxinkumar Bajrange is an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, director and an activist from the Chhara de-notified tribes of Ahmedabad in the western part of India. He is a recipient of a Ford Foundation International Fellowship (2010-11) for a Masters Degree in ‘Theatre and Global Development’ at the University of Leeds, England. Recently, his book Budhan Bolta Hai (Budhan Speaks) got the first prize for Mahatma Gandhi Best Creative Writing on Human rights by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for 2010-11. He is also a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Arts Fellowship (2004-05) and Bhasha Fellowship (2002-03) to study art forms of nomadic and de-notified communities in Gujarat. Currently, he works as a director at Budhan Theatre, which is a community theatre group of the Chhara de-notified tribes of Gujarat. He also works as a freelance filmmaker and theatre educator. For more information please visit: .

Archives of movement: Reading current transformations of migrant labour through the concept of movement

Elisa T. Bertuzzo

Focusing on a particular form of fluid labour, namely that of translocal labourers, I will attempt to read the life stories of such highly mobilised individuals both as ‘narratives of migrant labour’ and as ‘narratives of/in movement’. On the one hand, my analysis deals with the issue of labour – migrant, self-organised and self-exploitative – and, on the other, with the narratives as moments in which the migrant subjects move across space-times: between past and present as well as changing locations, but also between the space-time of alienated survival and that of narrative individuality, i.e. between subaltern and authorial space. These life stories emerge as speech-acts, by which the migrant subjects, defeating everyday alienation, appropriate their own lives.

I shall first elucidate the premises on which circular migrants rely in their struggle to find (better) work in various fields of production – from seasonal agricultural jobs to construction, from street vending to domestic work in urban households – in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. Hence, I wish to elaborate on the concept of movement, which, for me, constitutes not only the leitmotiv of the highly flexible livelihoods of the variegated social group concerned, but also a category of thought that mediates between spatial and temporal approaches in relation to the phenomenon of increased mobilisation.

Is it possible to understand the transformations at stake by positing the emergence of a way of life – of production, of coexistence, as well as of thought – that is essentially ‘on the move’? What can subaltern subjects who, out of need, have already embraced such a way of life in India and Bangladesh, reveal about this mobile condition of fluid labour?

Elisa T. Bertuzzo, born in 1980 in Italy, does research in the fields of cultural and urban studies with a specific focus on the survival tactics of the subaltern in South Asia. She holds a position as senior researcher at Technical University Berlin, Germany, and is currently leading the project Archives of Movement, which deals with the everyday life of seasonal and temporary labour migrants in Bangladesh and India, against the background of ongoing processes of global urbanisation.
After studying in Augsburg, Paris and Berlin, she obtained a Master degree in comparative literature, media and communication studies with a thesis on Walter Benjamin’s flânerie, submitted to Free University Berlin in 2004. She pursued a doctoral degree in urban studies at the habitat unit of Technical University Berlin in 2008, with a dissertation on the production of space in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her articles have been published in international magazines and academic publications in the field of critical urban studies. She is an active member of Habitat Forum Berlin, a non-profit organisation working to promote humane dwelling, for which she curates collaborative projects encompassing arts, research and activism.

Dr. sc. Marin Blažević is a theatre and performance studies scholar and dramaturge based in Zagreb, Croatia. As an Associate Professor he teaches theory and history of theatre, performance studies and dramaturgy at the Academy of Drama Arts (Department of Dramaturgy) and opera dramaturgy at the Music Academy (Department of Opera singing), University of Zagreb. As adjunct associate professor he teaches cross-disciplinary dramaturgy at Columbia University School of the Arts (Theater - Dramaturgy). He is also head-dramaturge of the Croatian National Theater in Rijeka and artistic director of CNT’s Opera Company.

Marin has published widely in English, Italian, Croatian and Slovenian. His publications include authored books, collections of essays and edited thematic issues of international journals for performing arts and performance studies. With Matthew Goulish (Goat Island, Every House Has a Door), Marin co-edited special English issues of performing arts journal Frakcija (Fraction): Reflections on the Process / Performance:  A Reading Companion to Goat Island's ‘When will the September roses bloom?’ (2004/2005). With Lada Čale Feldman he co-edited Actor as/and Author, a thematic issue for Fraction (2001), and MIS-performance for Performance Research (including DVD On PSi#15 Shifts, co-edited with Una Bauer). Marin’s edited books include: Branko Gavella: Teorija glume – od materijala do ličnosti (Branko Gavella: Theory of Acting – English translation forthcoming in 2015); a collection of essays on Slovenian performance-theatre company Via Negativa titled No (2011) and MISperformance, Essays on Shifting Perspectives, co-edited with Lada Čale Feldman (2014, Authored books: Razgovori o novom kazalištu (Conversations on the New Theatre, 2007) and Izboren poraz (A Defeat Won, 2012), on the theory of new theatre and its peculiar history in Croatia. He is currently working on the book The Breadth and Shifts of Dramaturgy (forthcoming in 2016).

As conference director, Marin was responsible for the programming of the 15th annual conference of Performance Studies international (Zagreb 2009) on the theme MISperformance. Marin was also Chair of PSi’s International Committee 2010-2014 and co-founder (with Peter Eckersall) of the new PSi Working Group – Dramaturgy & Performance Studies (in 2012). Marin is director and dramaturge of PSi 2015, a dispersed international conference project in fifteen locations around the world: Fluid States: Performances of unKnowing (

The Epistemology of Cargo

Maaike Bleeker

In Rimini Protokoll’s Cargo, the audience is placed in a container truck with a big window on one side. Where usually goods are stacked, the audience is now sitting and looking at cargo negotiating ramps, warehouses, and border checkpoints while listening to the truck driver’s stories. Labor and market economy are recurring themes in the work of the Berlin-based theatre collective, as is the presence of nonprofessional performers, or ‘experts of the daily life’, as they prefer to call them. These experts share their experiences, and through them we gain unusual perspectives on aspects of reality, theirs and ours. This lecture looks at how this happens in Cargo as well as in several other productions, with a special focus on spectatorship: spectatorship as a fundamental aspect of theatrical performance as well as of the ways in which Rimini Protokoll’s work engages with labor and engages audiences in ways of knowing labor.

Cargo (both Rimini Protocoll’s production and the phenomenon to which the title of their performance refers) presents a materialization of processes that Mark Hansen, writing about 21st century media, describes as human implicatedness. Massive complexification of networks between machines, between humans and machines, and between humans and humans, requires a rethinking of human experience in ways that acknowledge that these processes impact our lives in significant ways, despite often evading the grasp of our conscious reflection and sense perception. Hansen is writing about 21st century media technology and how this technology impacts us at levels below human sense perception.

The development of container transport, chain delivery and semi-automatic systems to organize production and consumption on a global scale has turned humans into functions in a system in which cargo takes the center stage and impacts human lives in ways that evade the grasp of conscious reflection and perception at a macro level. Rimini Protokoll’s Cargo engages with this phenomenon by means of “a road movie which is no movie” in which the audience is offered a view inside an unknown world. This approach will be discussed in the context of several other artistic approaches to cargo and human implicatedness, including the Australian BighART’s Blue Angel.

Maaike Bleeker is a Professor of Theatre Studies, and head of the Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University. She graduated in Art History, Theatre Studies and Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and obtained her PhD from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Since 1991, she is also active as a dramaturge in theatre and dance. She is the author of Visuality in the Theatre (Palgrave 2008). She has published extensively in international journals and edited volumes and several books including Anatomy Live: Performance and the Operating Theatre (AUP 2008) and Performance and Phenomenology: Traditions and Transformations (Routledge 2015). She is currently preparing a monograph titled Corporeal Literacy and an edited volume about dance and digital technology (entitled Transmission in Motion). Bleeker is president of Performance Studies international (PSi, and was the organizer of the 2011 world conference of Performance Studies international, titled Camillo 2.0: Technology, Memory, Experience (see also

Labour, Performance and the field of the Performing Arts in Rural Tamil Nadu

Hanne M. de Bruin

The first part of the paper analyses the economic, social and emotional meanings of the term ‘labour’ or ulaippu in connection with the vocation of a rural Kattaikkuttu performer. In addition to experiencing their fully-embodied performances as a form of physical exertion, ulaippu also refers to the pain or suffering of labour within a historical context where the participation in rural performing art forms has been determined by caste and where performance is both a right and an obligation for members of specific subaltern service castes in rural Tamil Nadu. Lastly, ulaippu takes on an additional connotation specific to the non-Brahmanical context within which Kattaikkuttu is performed, of actors having to handle impurity and take upon themselves the risk of death in/through performance by embodying the Mahabharata’s heroic victims of violent sacrificial strife.

The second part of the paper focuses on the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam, a residential theatre school for rural children and young people in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu near Kanchipuram. The Gurukulam offers its students a combination of professional artistic training as a Kattaikkuttu actor or musician in combination with comprehensive (formal) education and care. Here I will look at the kind of training and education the students receive using Nicholas Ridout’s essay “All Theatre, All the Time” from his book Passionate Amateurs as a point of reference. I will discuss the need for professionalism and aestheticism - within Kattaikkuttu’s specific context - so as to stimulate individual young people to make their own choices and build a new generation of young performers that can sustain themselves in today’s competitive performance market.

Hanne M. de Bruin holds a degree in Indology from Leiden University, The Netherlands. She has a specific interest in the performing arts in India, in particular in women performers and the stigma that adheres to women on the stage and to the artistic expressions of the marginalized and oppressed. In 2002 she quit an academic career to work full-time as a Facilitator and now as the Executive Director of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam and Gurukulam based in Punjarasantankal village near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.

The Talents in My Passport: A Query into the Asymmetries of Performance in the Creative Economy

Felipe Cervera

According to the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, ‘migrant worker’ loosely refers to ‘a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he/she is not a national.’ Yet, in spite of its inherent generality, the term is used more as a synonym for low-paid laborer and less for high-ranking executives, artists and academics, who are more fashionably called ‘foreign talent’, or even ‘the creative class’. The relationship between ‘worker’ and ‘talent’ is crucial as it is indicative of a set of assumptions that are commonly fixed by concepts relating to the global, labor, performance and creativity.

By taking my own experience as a Mexican migrant in Singapore, this paper explores the assumptions that accompany the perceptions of migrant workers in the island-state in order to dissect some regimes of perceptions in which passports become an index of the talents an individual must possess and practice. The paper suggests that although there is an equivalence of sorts between what Filipinos, Bangladeshis and Indonesians are to Singapore with what Mexicans are to the United States, the talents that each migrant individual will be expected to show are largely dependent on local configurations and history. In that sense, the paper argues that as much as it is necessary to identify what a performative query can do to better study migrant workers at large, it is also imperative to identify the asymmetrical performativity that ‘a talent’ will assume in different locations. In doing so, the paper seeks to contribute to the larger conversation about the intersections of performance and globalization.

Felipe Cervera is a PhD candidate with the Theatre Studies Program at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He has a BA in Dramatic Literature and Theatre from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and an MA in Drama by Practice-as-Research from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. His research interests include performance theory, Practice-as-Research, Science Fiction Studies, Muslim theatricalities and theatre making. He is co-leader of The Art of Strangers, a creative collective based in Mexico and Singapore.

No Outside: Thinking the Creative Economy in India

Anita Cherian

My intervention is on the Creative Economy and the thinking of and around this subject in India. While my disciplinary interest is in cultural policy, my interest in terms of critique is in showing how creative economy thinking is today identical to cultural policy thinking. The one inhabits the other. There is no outside; there seems to be no alternative. My paper will attempt to show the normalizing of creative economy as fundamental to both the productive underpinnings of contemporary cultural work, and also to its conceptual and affective frameworks.

My presentation will examine, firstly, certain policy initiatives which have contributed to the growing ubiquity of the creative economy framework. It will also examine the densely representative and coalescing figure of the artist-curator/ entrepreneur/arts administrator. A study of the latter, I would suggest, is critical to an investigation of the operationalizing of the creative economy.

Anita Cherian teaches English at the Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She has a PhD in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. In the past, she has been a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and a teacher of Media Studies at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Her research interests are in the areas of cultural policy and cultural studies, theatre history, performance studies, and cultural labour under the regimes of neoliberalism. At present, she is completing a manuscript on the institutional production of a ‘national’ theatre in the years following independence in India. She has also begun work on a new project that examines cultural policy-making in the time of globalization.

Labour, Service, Performance

Soumyabrata Choudhury

The lecture will delineate the minimal contour of a contemporary theory of labour as performance. While the autonomist thinkers of Italy (including Antonio Negri and Paolo Virno among others) have already presented the possibility of re-reading Marx’s Grundisse in the contemporary global context of labour as productive service, this investigation will take the notion of service as encoded in caste-society in relation to the Italian autonomist thesis. For someone like Paolo Virno, the figure of the contemporary knowledge e-worker is both an empirical entity in the history of capitalism as well as the vindication of an ontology. Peculiarly, this proposal works towards the fusion of an ontology of cooperation with that of theatre. In the sense that theatre is understood as a space of ‘free cooperation’, which is both a critique of capitalism’s formal presupposition of freedom and its creative and collective emancipation. Thus, the ontology of labour as performance becomes revolutionary.

In the ancient Hindu text Manusmriti, it is prescribed for the shudra caste, the caste lowest in the social hierarchy, that it serves without resentment. Service is the locus of a kind of commanded ontology that provides the affective infrastructure of all labour. All labour is service and caste-society is based on the figure of the ‘servant-who-labours’. The lecture will ask the conjunctural but essential question: Is there a theatrical model to grasp the historical articulation between the servant-who-labours (without resentment) of caste and the labour-which-serves of capitalism? Between the shudra of whom we do not know what she does feel when she serves and the contemporary affective worker – of which the global hospitality industry is the paradigmatic employer – who produces immaterial sensations for exchange remaining in her own person(a), reversible, impassable and neutral as an actor is?

Soumyabrata Choudhury currently teaches at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU. He has previously taught at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, and has been a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. His book Theatre, Number, Event: Three Studies on the Relationship of Sovereignty, Power and Truth was published by IIAS, Shimla in 2013. He is currently in the process of completing a book of essays on the political philosophy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

A Hunger called Theatre: Affect, Art and Activism

Dia Da Costa

This paper contributes to feminist and critical development studies by rethinking the tremendous theoretical and policy optimism around arts, creativity, and creative economy which have been variously viewed as regenerating global citizenship, nurturing a politics of the multitude and renewing degraded local economies. In the context of deepening intersections of patriarchy, neoliberal capitalism and Hindu nationalism, prominent practices of the creative economy discourse in India have involved building creative and heritage clusters, as well as the optimistic valorization of artisanal entrepreneurs among the urban poor. Feminist affect theory in particular takes felt sensations as sites of embodied knowledge, power, and transformation and draws attention to the ways in which our bodies constitute traction for discourses such as the optimism of creative economy discourse.

Using this theoretical framework, I offer a critical ethnographic analysis of two longstanding spaces of activist performance in India to examine how and why creative economy discourse comes to gain concrete spatial reality in any given place. Specifically, I show how the cultural activism of Jana Natya Manch affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Budhan Theatre, a community-based group of the indigenous Chhara community give traction to dominant discourses of creativity. The material and symbolic hungers that constitute activist theatre demonstrates a complex relationship between creative economy and cultural activism -one marked by praxis and hegemony, and not just the clash of ideological opposites. Studying the structures of feeling that animate activist performance therefore teaches us that spaces of creative work bear the immanent potential for both valorizing and challenging the terms of creative economy in contemporary India.

Dia Da Costa is Associate Professor at Queen’s University, Canada. Her interdisciplinary research and teaching lie at the intersection of critical development studies and cultural studies. She conducts ethnographic research on activist performance troupes in India in order to rethink and theorize development, citizenship, and political action from the margins. She is the author of Development Dramas: Reimagining Rural Political Action in Eastern India (Routledge, 2009). She has edited a special issue of Third World Quarterly (2010) on the intersections of culture in development thinking and practice. She has articles in journals such as Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, Cultural Studies, Journal of Peasant Studies, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and Contributions to Indian Sociology. She is currently completing her second book entitled A Hunger called Theatre: Affect, Art and Activism in India which addresses the politics of creative economy discourse and activist performance in India

Jana Natya Manch and the Working Class: A Perspective over Three Decades

Sudhanva Deshpande

Focusing on street theatre group Jana Natya Manch, this talk will discuss three worker-oriented plays: Machine (1978), Halla Bol (1988) and Yeh Hum Kyun Sahein (2008). These plays span three decades during a time when the industrial landscape of Delhi has changed beyond recognition. Street theatre activist and cultural critic Sudhanva Deshpande will talk about how Janam's understanding of labour from a Left perspective has evolved and responded over the years to the changing conditions of the working class itself, faced as it is with the incursions of the neo-liberal economy and the crackdown on trade unions.

Sudhanva Deshpande is an actor and director with Jana Natya Manch (Janam), a radical political theatre collective based in New Delhi. He has been involved in the creation of dozens of street, proscenium and other performances, and has lectured and led workshops in institutions across India, as well as in Germany, Poland, the US and UK. He has held teaching positions at the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad) and the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre (Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi). He writes on theatre and politics, and has edited Theatre of the Streets: The Jana Natya Manch Experience (Janam 2007) and co-edited Our Stage: The Pleasures and Perils of Theatre Practice in India Today (Tulika 2009). He has co-directed two documentary films on Naya Theatre and Habib Tanvir (available from Magic Lantern Films). He is a member of the Core Team of the India Theatre Forum. Since 1999, he has headed LeftWord Books, an independent publishing house, as Managing Editor, as well as May Day Bookstore and Cafe since 2012. He has been involved in the conceptualisation, creation, administration and programming of Studio Safdar, Shadi Khampur. His default mode of transport is the bicycle.

Bishnupriya Dutt is Professor of Theatre and Performance studies, in the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Her areas of research include colonial and postcolonial histories of theatre, feminist readings of Indian theatre and contemporary performative practices and popular culture. She has also been an actress and director in the theatre in India.

Her publications include Engendering Performance: Indian Woman Performers in Search of an Identity, Sage Delhi 2010, co-authored with Urmimala Sarkar; ‘Actress Stories: Binodini and Amal Allana, (in Aston and Case, eds.: Palgrave Macmillan,  2007); ‘Historicizing Actress Stories: English Actresses in India (1839-42),  (Singh, OUP  2009); ‘Jatra and the Marginalization of the Mythological Theme’, (in Chaturvedi, ed. Rawat, 2008); ‘In Dialogue with Histories : The Dancer and the Actress’, (in Sarkar and  Burridge, Routledge 2011); ‘Theatre and Subaltern Histories, Chekhov Adaptations in Postcolonial India’ (in Clayton and Meerson, eds., Routledge, London, 2012); ‘Unsafe spaces of Theatre and Feminism in India: Identity Politics Forum’, TRI Issue 37.1, March 2012.

She along with her colleagues from JNU have an ongoing research collaboration (sponsored by UGC and UKIERI) with the School of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Warwick, on ‘gendered citizenship, manifestations and performance’.

Touch in The Battlefield: Girls, Love and Sex During Wartime

María Estrada-Fuentes

After the 1989 United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it is widely accepted that any person under the age of 18 is to be considered a child. Accordingly, Western notions of childhood depict all children as vulnerable, innocent, irrational and incapable of making decisions, and are thus in need of guidance and protection. This Western notion of childhood is rooted in a biomedical framework that omits contextual and cultural factors in the ways in which persons react to their political and social context. However, recent scholarship on the involvement of youth in warfare examines the personal volition of children when exposed to violence and armed conflict. Authors like Michael Wessells, Victoria Sanford and Wenche Hauge remind us that in a context of war, joining the perpetrators of violence is in many cases a strategy to avoid victimisation, and is regarded by some civilians as the only available option to survive or make a living. Child soldiering is, nevertheless, considered one of the worst forms of child labour, as affirmed by Human Rights Watch, 2003.

Discussing the contested label of ‘child soldier’, Sukanya Podder argues that this eighteen-year norm is based on Jean Piaget’s assumption ‘that the transition from childhood to adulthood takes place in universal, naturally determined and fixed steps’, disregarding the fact that the conceptualisation of childhood, adulthood and maturity depends on the cultural context. This standardised naming has been crucial for the creation of international treaties, shelters and programmes to assist and rehabilitate former Child Soldiers. The narratives of people under the age of 18 who have been or are involved in warfare challenge assumptions of innocence and vulnerability assigned to children in war contexts. By drawing on in-depth interviews, testimonial and autobiographical narratives of women who have been involved in warfare, this paper explores ideas of love and sex as seen through the relationship between dissident citizenships and child labour in order to contest assumptions on the role of children in war.

María Estrada-Fuentes is a doctoral candidate in the School of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick. She completed her undergraduate degree in Art History and Theory (Hons.) at Los Andes University in Bogotá, Colombia (2002-2007) and her Master of Arts in International Performance Research (Distinction) at the University of Warwick and the University of Tampere, Finland (jointly awarded degree, 2009-2010). María’s current research focuses on peace-building during protracted intrastate violent conflict. She is interested in Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) processes. Her work examines subject creation through pre-given legal and cultural categories which takes place in the reintegration phase. For this she examines ex-combatants’ narratives on post-conflict reintegration in contemporary Colombia (1989-2014), and how such narratives are shaped by institutional classification. María has worked on peace-building projects and performed extensive fieldwork in Colombia.

Dance in/as Competition

Susan Leigh Foster

This presentation examines the role of dance competitions in contemporary private dance studio training in the U.S., arguing that the focus on judging and winning has substantially altered the ways that dance is experienced by both performers and viewers. Comparing contemporary studio practices with those from the early 20th century, I consider how the focus on competition has opened up new demands for teacher training and for dances that can be taught and performed, and requirements for dancers as laborers. I situate the contemporary focus on competition within the neo-liberal globalized economy and speculate about how dancers as workers are being disciplined to commodify feeling itself.

Susan Leigh Foster, choreographer and scholar, is Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. She is the author of Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance, Choreography and Narrative: Ballet’s Staging of Story and Desire, Dances that Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull, and Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance. She is also the editor of three anthologies: Choreographing History, Corporealities, and Worlding Dance. Three of her danced lectures can be found at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage website

Milija Gluhovic is Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick. His research interests include contemporary European theatre and performance, memory studies, and discourses of European identity, migrations and human rights. His monograph Performing European Memories: Trauma, Ethics, Politics and an edited volume titled Performing the ‘New’ Europe: Identities, Feelings, and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest (with Karen Fricker) were published by Palgrave in 2013. He is currently working on two edited collections for Palgrave: Performing the Secular: Performance, Religion, and the Public Sphere (with Jisha Menon, Stanford University), which explores the itineraries of ‘the secular’ within the modern world and considers the ways ‘the secular’ has translated into theatre and performance studies perspectives, and International Performance Research: The Unconditional Discipline? (with Sruti Bala, Amsterdam, et al.), which explores the critical link between the discipline of Performance Studies and Humanities education in the contemporary university in the context of globalization. Milija is also the director of an MA in International Performance Research, which is taught collaboratively at the University of Warwick, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Arts in Belgrade.

Concrete Labour as the Framework for Foregrounding a Corporeal Aesthetic

Gopal Guru

In this presentation I am going to make a core argument that labour and its mediating impact on complex forms of performance produce a distinct corporeal aesthetic. I will further argue that labour which gets mixed up with performances of the gendered  body assumes an aesthetic  dimension which, I claim, is different from the Lockean conception of the mixing of labour with soil as a material object.

I will thus attempt to make an ambitious philosophical claim that the mixing of labour power with complex movements of the gendered body acquires an ontological status which is different from the Lockean and even Marxist conceptions of labor. I will try to reflect on the question: If the mixing of labour with a material object such as soil constitutes a precondition for the ontological status of reality, then in what sense does the performing body assign ontological status to reality which is constitutive of both act and gesture? I will explore this complex question basing my argument on Lawani, the vibrant folk dance of Maharashtra. 

Gopal Guru is Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where he teaches courses on moral and social theory, and modern Indian political thought. A leading scholar in the field of Dalit politics and cultural practice, he has published two major books Humiliation: Claims and Context (Oxford University Press, 2009), and The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory (Oxford University Press, 2012), co-authored with Sundar Sarukkai, in addition to numerous essays in the Economic and Political Weekly. He is the recipient of the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for distinguished contribution to Development Studies.

The Maid Vanishes: Performing Gendered Citizenship in the Context of Work-Related Migration

Silvija Jestrovic

In this paper, the point of departure is the disappearance of an Indian woman, who worked as domestic help for a Saudi family. They arrived together to the UK and took residence in Cryfield Cottages at Warwick University, where the mother of the family was taking a postgraduate course. Around the same time, I too moved to the UK and into the Cryfield Cottages to take up a new job at Warwick University. The Indian maid and I chatted one morning over laundry. Afterwards, I thought how we both were migrants from different parts of the world, who came to the UK to work, yet even though we lived next door, our experiences, legal rights and prospects couldn’t be further apart. A few days later she disappeared. The Saudi family was not surprised as this apparently happened all the time with domestic help in their circles; the police investigated for a short while before it was agreed that the maid had slipped through the immigration net.

My Practice as Research (PaR) project, which I will present in this paper, retraces the steps of this disappearance from the idyllic setting of Warwick University’s family housing to Coventry Police Records (and beyond). In this actual and conceptual investigation of my neighbour’s disappearance, I seek to engage with various aspects of her otherness on a deeper political, ethical, and personal level, which I failed to do at the time the incident happened. My paper will contextualise the PaR project within the existing scholarship on migrant labour and gender, as well as within the frames of labour and immigration laws, to investigate how gendered performances of citizenship are variously shaped and conditioned in the context of work-related migration through different socio-economic circumstances and legal systems.

Silvija Jestrovic has a BA in dramaturgy from University of Belgrade and MA and PhD from the University of Toronto. She has also worked professionally as a TV journalist, dramaturge and playwright. Silvija joined Warwick University in 2005 as a Lecturer in Contemporary Theatre and Performance after holding SSHRC and Canada Research Chair Postdoctoral Fellowships at York University in Toronto. Her book Theatre of Estrangement: Theory, Practice, Ideology was published by University of Toronto Press in 2006. Currently, Silvija is working on a book-length project From Cities of War to Cities of Exile: Space, Embodiment and Utopia in Urban Performance, which she is co-editing with Yana Meerzon, in addition to a volume for Palgrave Macmillan entitled Performance, Exile and ‘America’. She is also trying to rewrite one of her plays.

Labor, Art and Life: Biopolitical Aspects in a Historiographic Perspective

Gabriele Klein

A central thesis of post-Fordian thinking is that the relationship of art and labor has changed radically in the course of neoliberal and post-Fordian societies. Governmental and biopolitical interests were and still are important reasons for this change. In relation to these transformations, the question is: How does the proportion of labor, art and life turn out to be? In other words, how will the models of lifestyle change with the social transformations of labor and art? And furthermore, which part acts the performative and plays the role of performance art?

The lecture will pursue these questions and will highlight them in a historiographic perspective. The genesis of the relationships between labor, life and art will be mainly considered within specific economic, political and cultural frames.

Gabriele Klein is Professor for Sociology of Human Movement and Dance at the University of Hamburg (UHH), Germany since 2002. From 1977 to 1987, she studied Sociology, History, Human Movement Sciences, Contemporary Dance and Education at the Universities of Bielefeld, Bochum, Essen and Amsterdam. She completed her Doctorate in Social Sciences at the University of Bochum in 1990. Her dissertation was published in 1992 under the title Women Bodies Dance: A Civilization Theory of Dance.

Since the publication of her dissertation, Gabriele Klein has been considered to be one of the pioneers of dance studies in Germany. She habilitated in 1998 with the study Electronic Vibration: Pop Culture Theory, published in 1999. She has occupied numerous international chairs as a visiting professor in the University of Berne, Switzerland; the ‘Mozarteum’ Salzburg, Austria; Smith College, USA; the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa; and Osaka City University, Japan. Since 1994 she has been the head of various research projects and has appeared as organizer of numerous national and international academic events. From 1997 to 2001 she was chair of the Society for Dance Research, and since 2005, she has been the director of the interdisciplinary Center for Performance Studies and the post-graduate programme for performance studies at the University of Hamburg (

Gabriele Klein’s research is concentrated on body, human movement and dance studies, as well as on pop culture, performance studies, gender studies and urban studies. The social-scientific and gender-theoretical perspectives that she has developed, and for which she has received international awards, have been expanded in subsequent research, in particular in studies of popular dance forms in the youth scene, especially techno and hip-hop culture, Latin American dances and cultural performances, which she has examined primarily in the contexts of everyday life, sport and the arts.
Performance, Production and Public Spaces in Post-Industrial Ruhr Valley: Critical Thinking on the Creative Economy

Oliver Kontny
My critical engagement with the ideas and lingo surrounding creative cities, creative economies and creative industries is informed by my own work in this sector in the Ruhr Valley, one of Germany's largest metropolitan regions. Regional policies, concepts and strategies in the arts and cultural production focus on the assumption that ‘present day modernity no longer hinges on hard wage labour in factories and mines [but] is defined by service-providing creative economy’, as an official publication puts it. Alongside the ubiquitous exploitation of creative labour for ‘event culture’, this paradigm shift sources out public tasks surrounding urban development, cultural education, inclusion and intercultural negotiation to ‘cultural projects’. Eerily enough, the elusive addressee of latter projects seems to be the very social group that mass media depicts as the recruiting ground for terrorism: young, disenfranchised Muslim youth. In my work I strive to raise the question how cultural practice can open up a Third Space or a 'space off' (De Lauretis) in a cultural landscape marked by spectacular events and social care projects.

In my observation, cultural projects increasingly need to prove their eligibility for private or public funding by arguing that they will ultimately contribute to an increase in social productivity and economic growth. In his analysis of productive and unproductive labour, Karl Marx identified and attacked a similar argument to the effect that ‘spiritual productions should merely be granted recognition’ when ‘proved to be, direct producers of material wealth.’ The attempt to justify art as ultimately productive labour is intriguing if we consider that in Marx, labour can be classified as productive or unproductive only in relation to context and standpoint. Does this ambiguity provide a point of departure for reading labour as a performative in the Butlerian sense? I argue that creative labour today is ‘performed’ as a contribution to larger programs of structural change, social integration and economic growth. Does this notion of performativity provide a ‘space off’ for subversion, critique and ultimately emancipation? How is creative labour affecting issues of poverty, inequality and survival in the face of violent ethnic and ideological polarisation in European societies today?

Oliver Kontny was born in Dortmund, Germany, and studied philosophy and history in Bremen and Iranian and Turkic studies in Berlin. He has lived and worked in Istanbul, London and Oxford. He has been working in the film industry and as a literary translator. Between 2009 and 2011 he worked as dramaturge, programmer and project developer for the Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, a theatre in Berlin renowned for introducing ‘post-migrant’ aesthetics. He has authored and produced award-winning stage plays and radio productions and is a member of the advisory board of Zukunftsakademie NRW, a public 'think-and-do-tank' working at the interstices of urban development, cultural education and intercultural negotiation.
Udaya Kumar is Professor of English at the University of Delhi. He was formerly Professor of Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, United Kingdom. He has also held fellowships at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His publications include The Joycean Labyrinth: Repetition, Time and Tradition in 'Ulysses' (Clarendon, 1991), Styles of the Self: The Body, Memory and Visibility in Modern Malayalam Writing (Permanent Black, forthcoming),  and several papers on contemporary literary and cultural theory and Indian literature. His recent research has focused on autobiographical writing, cultural histories of the body, idioms of vernacular social thought, and the shaping of modern literary cultures.

Statutory Presence: The Labours of Sam Hsieh

Ray Langenbach
During the last two decades of the 20th century Tehching Hsieh created a series of live actions or performance works that became icons of the turn in performance art toward life-like art. Most of the works were done by Hsieh when he was an illegal immigrant in the United States. The most iconic of these ‘One Year Performances’ were the first two. The One Year Performance 1980-1981, during which he punched a time clock every hour on the hour, 24 hours each day for one year, preceded by the first of the series during which he incarcerated himself in a cell in his studio for one year. These were followed by others.


 I have previously described Hsieh's work in the following terms: ‘...Hsieh's performances represent the abject but tactical proletarian immigrant who imposes on himself those deprivations and privileges that his adopted nation might deploy in the process of articulating his identity and commodity value as illegal/worker/subject.’ (Langenbach 2002 cited in Heathfield 2009:26). This reading of Hsieh's work was then countered by Adrian Heathfield in his book The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh, as too strategic and delimiting. He states: ‘For the moment then, it would seem important to suspend judgment on the question of the work's political efficacy, in order to explore what it might be doing and saying about the nature of agency and speech in relation to the question of freedom’ (Heathfield, 2009:26).

In this presentation, I will counter-argue that this approach strips the political complexity and poignancy of Hsieh’s position as illegal Taiwanese immigrant art worker. The sheer materiality of his statutory presence is missed and numbed.  I would like to return to his extraordinary conditions of incarceration, with its spatial and temporal metrics, to flesh out the difficult and subtle ways that Hsieh's works both enforce and subvert notions of labor – alienated and unalienated.

Ray Langenbach is Professor of Performance Art and Theory, University of the Arts, Helsinki. He creates conceptual performances, convenes gatherings, documents aesthetic and social performance, and writes on cultural theory, visual art, performance and queer culture. His installations, video and performance art works have been presented in the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. He co-convened the Perform: State: Interrogate: Performance Studies international #10 Conference (Singapore 2004), serving on the PSi Board of Directors from 2003-2005 and from 2009-20013. He curated/co-curated the 6th & 7th Kuala Lumpur Triennials 2009 & 2013, Satu Kali International Performance Art Symposium (2006) and three Asian Art and Performance conferences in Helsinki (2012-14). 
His installations and performance art works have been presented in the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions); Nevada Museum of Art; Artspace, Sydney; the Asia Pacific Triennale and the Gwangju Biennale, among others forums. His writings include Lim Tzay Chuen: A Work, Performative Indoctrination Model, Mediating Malaysia: Media, Culture & Power in Malaysian SocietyContesting Performance: Emerging Sites of Research with Paul Rae, and various journals.  
Cops & Robbers:  gentrification, displacement and police theater in downtown Los Angeles
John Malpede
Skid Row is a forty-year-old social experiment in which, through activist intervention, fifty blocks in downtown Los Angeles were zoned to preserve low-income housing and concentrate services for homeless people, resulting in a permanent low-income community. Now, development of adjacent areas has put this community at risk of displacement.
Malpede says, ‘We’re one of two dueling street theaters operating in Skid Row named “LAPD” -the other one is the police.’  The lecture (with some live performance elements and video), will chronicle the uses of ‘police theater’ in repeated attempts of developers to displace the neighborhood and occupy its potentially gazillion-dollar real estate, a stone’s throw from the high-rise LA skyline.  The presentation will also chronicle the (good) LAPD’s deployment of strategic/ theatrical community interventions designed to challenge and change the dominant narrative about Skid Row in order to resist displacement.

John Malpede directs, performs, and engineers multi-event arts / organizing projects. In 1985, Malpede founded and continues to direct the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the first performance group of homeless and formerly homeless artists living and working in Skid Row, LA. LAPD 's mission is to create performances that connect lived experience to the social forces that shape the lives and communities of people living in poverty. Recent projects have addressed mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and the resilience of the Skid Row community faced with gentrification and displacement. LAPD has also produced projects around the U.S., Europe and in South America. Malpede’s ‘RFK in EKY’ recreated Robert F. Kennedy’s original ‘war on poverty’ tour of eastern Kentucky in the course of a four-day, 200 mile series of events that included, performance, installation, and in-depth discussion of jobs, education, environmental degradation and war. As a fellow at MIT, he created Bright Futures a critique of financial engineering in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

How to Queer a War Machine: Performativity and the Creative Economy

Jon McKenzie

Global performativity emerges in the late 20th- and early 21st centuries via the multiplication of performance paradigms, practices, and metrics, as disciplinary societies and institutions fold back and crumble on themselves amid intensified flows of people, goods, information, and capital. From the high performance management in the creative economy to heart-rending community performances, the valencies of performativity range from the most culturally normative to the most politically precarious. How does performativity differ from discipline, where do their normative forms diverge, overlap, and supplement one another, and what distinguishes their forms of resistance?  This talk will present a theoretical framework for understanding performativity and the creative economy, survey contemporary forms of critical activism, and demonstrate strategies for injecting modes of critical cultural efficacy into systems dominated by normative mixes of technical effectiveness and organizational efficiency. 

Jon McKenzie is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches courses in performance theory and new media. He is also Director of DesignLab, a digital composition center whose mission is to democratize digitality. An affiliate of the Digital Studies program, he likewise coordinates the Digital Humanities Initiative, a network of faculty, librarians, and technologists dedicated to enhancing the cyberinfrastructure of artists and humanists. Jon is the author of Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance (Routledge 2001) and such articles as ‘Global Feeling: (Almost) All You Need is Love,’ ‘Abu Ghraib and the Society of the Spectacle of the Scaffold,’ and ‘Towards a Sociopoetics of Interface Design: etoy, Etoys, and TOYWAR.’ His work has been translated into a half-dozen languages, and with Heike Roms and C.J. W-L. Lee, he is co-editor of Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (Palgrave 2011). Jon has produced a number of experimental video essays, including This Vile Display (2006) and, in collaboration with Austrian artist Ralo Mayer, The Revelations of Dr. Kx4l3ndj3r (2012). He also gives workshops internationally on performative scholarship and emerging scholarly genres. In fall 2013, HOBO Art Foundation and New Theatre in Warsaw co-produced Katastronauci, based on Perform or Else and The Revelations of Dr. Kx4l3ndj3r. Jon’s homepage is
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