Yesterday I received my free copies of my book Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, identity and the geographies of performance. It’s been out since the end of September but I didn’t quite believe it until I got it in my hands. I did several jumps around the staff room, little dances in other people’s offices, and thrust it into the face of everyone I met, including physical geographers. My colleagues are very understanding. I could have been asked to do anything and I’d have said yes, but thankfully I was only asked to do a seminar on it by our HOD. I’ve been avoiding that ritual for new staff for 2 years, but he got me in a moment of excitement.
So here it is… a geography book written in a theatre studies series. I think it will generate quite distinct reactions because it’s hard to work in an interdisciplinary vein – it is probably not enough of one disciplinary approach or another – but I have tried to forge something different. Ta-da!
Available at extortionate cost at http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415854382/
Previous Grant Applicants.
I visited the L’École Français d’Extrême Orient in Phnom Penh in May 2014 to start exploring the possibilities of some new research on contemporary Cambodian dance. This interest emerged from my British Academy postdoctoral fellowship, where my work examined the transnational migration and performances of ‘Asian’ artists in the UK, US and Singapore. Whilst in Singapore I saw several performances of contemporary Cambodian dance and participated in some workshops with Amrita Performing Arts, and it seemed that Cambodian dance in particular was being shaped by wider political and economic geographies. This led me to apply for the ASEASUK-British Academy-ECAF fellowship on ‘Geopolitics and Performance: The role of NGOs in contemporary Cambodian dance.’
The broad aim of the project was to examine transnational political and economic influences on contemporary Cambodian performance, focussing on the extent to which NGOs and aid agencies enable innovations in classical dance forms. Classical Khmer dance is often discussed in relation to its reconstruction using foreign aid in the wake of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), locking artists into a dependency relationship that fails to cultivate innovation. Conversely, the return of diaspora artists to Cambodia is often depicted as the driving force in contemporizing classical dance. So I wanted to bring these perspectives together to think through how NGOs and foreign donors support companies and individuals experimenting with classical dance forms, the adaptations in creative practice and Khmer identity that result, and the political tensions that surround such backing. I was able to conduct 28 interviews with NGOs and dancers whilst in Phnom Penh alongside two focus groups, and I watched performances at the Bophana Centre Archives. The ECAF centre, particularly Bertrand Porte, was really helpful in introducing me to artists they knew or had worked with, as well as French academics working on Cambodian dance. Once I’ve analysed and written through some of my materials I’m hoping to apply for AHRC or ERC funding to pursue a bigger project in this field. The challenge is to brush up my French and learn more Khmer!
Dr Amanda Rogers in a Lecturer in Human Geography at Swansea University. Her research focuses on geographies of the performing arts and she is interested in how the arts may express identity among different ‘Asian’ communities. Her recent work has focussed on the transnational geographies traced by Asian American, British East Asian and Singaporean theatres and practitioners. Her book on this topic, Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, identity and the geographies of performance, will be published with Routledge in September.
Two years ago as part of British East Asian Artists, I was involved in a protest against the casting of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Orphan of Zhao (see blog entries here and here and here). Ashley Thorpe (Royal Holloway) and myself have spent the last year or so putting together a Special Issue of Contemporary Theatre Review on the controversy. It basically uses the controversy to discuss racial politics and casting, and questions whether or not British theatre is as inclusive as it likes to think it is. In it, we have an editorial, our own individual contributions, plus amazing articles from Broderick Chow, Angela Pao and Sita Thomas. The issue also includes an interview with the RSC, an interview with two members of British East Asian Artists, as well as the formal statements released by all parties at the height of the controversy.
In addition to this, there is an open access site that includes Ashley’s reflections on the production’s marketing, Daphne Lei’s analysis of the La Jolla/A.C.T. production in the U.S. (which was cast with all Asian Americans), a clip of Anna Chen’s brilliant poem Yellowface and Daniel York’s absolutely incredible film The Orphan of Zhao Redux. These are all available at http://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org
It has been a long and at times stressful road to put this together, but we are all exceptionally proud of this special issue which is the first to address British East Asian representation in theatre. Huge thanks must go to every contributor and to every actor and performer who was involved in making this happen.
Just because it is so brilliant, I am including the short film here too…