Theatre, Migration, Camps, & the Crisis of the 21st Century

Thursday, 17 November 2016 - 10:00 am to 11:30 am
Room number: 
SMN 309
Contact information
Contact person: 
Yana Meerzon
Registration required: 
Cost to attend: 
Free of charge
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Conference given by Professor Mark O'Thomas (Newcastle University, UK)


Stephen Pinker’s epic study The Better Angels of our Nature: A History Of Violence and Humanity (2012) and more recently Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016) have both proclaimed a new age of civilisation for the 21st century, where humankind has consistently and progressively become more peaceful, less violent, and more human. Despite these claims, however, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia (among others) have led to the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, as large-scale movements of people from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia head West and North in an attempt to salvage their lives and livelihoods. In a new world where acts of terrorism are predictable only in terms of their ability to surprise and challenge the secular states they seek to destabilise, and one where the arrival of refugees has served to exacerbate hitherto undeclared resentments concerning the free movement of people within the European Union, the first fissure has appeared as Britain has signalled its exit from of a Union with its European partners. In this session, I would like to ask the question – what can and what should theatre do in the face of these challenges through an exploration of the role of entertainment more broadly within sites of migration and internment. In doing so, I will question how, and on what terms, theatre should react to the broader social and political sphere by focussing on its continuing engagement with the socio-cultural phenomenon of the camp. In looking at the development of camps over the 20th and 21st centuries, I will ultimately propose a new ethics for performance that seeks to build on the Levinasian model of inter-subjectivity and community as well as the more recent work of Agamben and his notion of the coming community.