Abstract submission deadline extended to 15 February for IFTR 2015 conference
31 January, 2015
#IFTR2015 Annual Conference, 'Theatre and Democracy', University of Hyderabad, India, 5-10 July 2015
Abstract submission deadline extended to 15 February
There were times in history when it was possible to use the term ‘democracy’ as an absolute ideal for universal good. Over the centuries, and especially after the supposed triumph of democracy with the end of cold war, history has been witnessing institutional and constitutional betrayals, exclusions, torturous oppression and even massacres perpetrated in the name of democracy. When the principles of democracy are systematically distorted by the structures that are erected to safeguard it, it is a complex and continuous struggle to reclaim the moral imperatives of the ideal from the stranglehold of the real, to re-examine various historical and culturally specific practices, institutions, notions, principles etc.
The practice of theatre, as it exists within and made possible by the matrix of socio-economic-political structures, often regulated by notions of national culture, cannot but engage with democracy, with issues of policy, resources, institutional and infrastructural spaces, along with the problems of authority, access, control, censorship, freedom, etc. In today’s context, it is imperative to open up these relations that facilitate and shape theatre practice to expose the political, aesthetic and social aspects of the politics of inclusion, exclusion and representation. In other words, the question is how effective is theatre as a part of the ‘public sphere’ and how far it shares or questions the limitations of the ‘public sphere’.
Within theatre itself, there have been many debates about democracy in the very way it is practiced –in terms of relations between the performance and audience, between various ‘jobs’ that go into producing a performance, the power relations between different languages (words, colors, movement, etc.) employed in the performance. Though there have been radical critiques and experiments for democratisation within theatre, many questions still remain about the authority of the guiding vision, decision making and the authority of skill/technology. What are the power structures within performance making, and how they are replicating the power relations in the larger society?
Preference for the idea of democracy has its own pitfalls too. The inclusive agenda of many multi-cultural efforts degenerate into celebrations of the most undemocratic aspects of different cultures as uncritical acceptance of the differences is seen as a democratic principle and the individuals participating in such efforts are seen as representatives of respective ‘cultures’ rather than products of socio-economic identities that have their own dynamics of privilege within their societies. Similar discrimination of uncritical acceptance is extended in the field of scholarship where illogical claims of scholars from ‘unprivileged’ identities are appreciated without questioning. Can democracy be practiced without rational discussion, even when it is accepted that notions of rationality need to be continuously questioned and expanded?
At a time when ‘democracy’ becomes neo-colonial war cry in the international arena and, in many countries, a way for dictatorial forces to gain power and suppress dissent through violent means, it is important to unpack the concept and see what is relevant and good about it and how it is relevant for what we do as practitioners and scholars in theatre. This has implications not only for theatre practice as part of the public sphere, but also for scholarship and for visualising better institutional structures. For 2015 IFTR conference we welcome papers that explore all aspects of theatre and democracy.