Category Archives: Writing

New Writing

In the space of a few weeks I’ve had a bit of writing success: I’ve had my Progress in Human Geography paper published on ‘Advancing the Geographies of the Performing Arts: Intercultural aesthetics, migratory mobility and geopolitics’; and I’ve had a paper accepted for Area which will be out soon on ‘Material Migrations of Performance.’ As always, if you don’t have access, but would like to read these, then email me and I’ll send you a copy.

I feel like the Progress paper is based on many years of thinking about different areas of research in theatre studies and geography that finally connected when I started getting to grips with my research from Cambodia. What I argue in the paper is that geographers have long engaged with performance as a concept, but what’s happened is that it’s become used in that performance studies sense where almost everything has become performance and we are performing all the time – i.e. we’ve moved from performance to performativity. This is a really fruitful way of thinking about lots of different geographies but what’s been lost in the process is that engagement with the creative skills of the performing arts. When you then look at what geographers have researched in relation to the performing arts specifically, it is much narrower, being based around particular theorists, types of performance, or geographical phenomena, in which, inevitably, landscape looms large. I’ve nothing against this, indeed, I’ve worked and published on these things, but equally it doesn’t completely capture my research or practice. Simultaneously, we are having this extremely influential creative re-turn in the discipline, the geohumanities is on the rise, and yet whilst this often focuses on ‘art’, the performing arts at times feel peripheral in these discussions.

So, in this paper I basically say geographers, let’s have a deeper engagement with the theories and practices of the performing arts, like we are doing with other arts and humanities disciplines. Let’s expand our conception of what ‘the geographies of the performing arts’ might be. I don’t want to be prescriptive in how this might proceed, but, for me, I’ve found work on interculturalism and creative migration really useful. Attending to cross-cultural encounters, particularly as they are created through the transnational migration of performers and their works, opens up the spatial intersections between culture, body, and the nation-state. Once you start exploring this, it becomes apparent that the performing arts are a highly political part of civil society, and in some parts of the world, this makes them a threat. These political dynamics mean we enter into the thorny terrain of geopolitics, and theatre studies has reached much further into this domain than geographers might expect. These spatialities all coalesced when I started thinking about dance in Cambodia because classical dance is so closely aligned with both the state and the legacies of genocide that attempts to experiment with bodies are attempts at experimenting in (trans) nationality.

The Area paper on ‘Material Migrations of Performance’ takes up the migration and mobility theme but thinks more broadly about the ‘stuff’ of performance. Geographers (me included) have this obsession with bodies when it comes to performance, and to a lesser extent, bodies in landscape or place (I’m guilty again) but when working in theatre you realise there’s a lot more to performance. There are scripts and sets and costumes and music and lights and and and…. they all have geographies too. I’ve written about scripts before, but not from a materialist perspective. It’s impossible to divorce these from bodies; bodies perform words, and they are dressed up and lit to perform in particular environments, but we can pause a bit and think about these other materialities of performance and how they have their own geographies. In the paper I write about costumes, scripts, and performance form (when you turn a live multi-media multi-sensory performance into a solely visual one) to start getting at some of these dynamics in relation to transnationalism. Shifting the focus onto materiality also opens up other areas of inquiry that geographers have been less attentive to in the rush towards creativity, such as the influence of capitalism on international arts festivals. What also happens is that our understanding of what the geographies of ‘a work of art’ might be also multiplies because it becomes apparent that any work is composed of all these different material entities, all these bits and pieces that each have their own spatial hi(stories). I think I may have just written that better here than in the paper! You can judge!

If you’re wondering what’s next, well, I’m working on a paper about race, racism and creative migration in theatre. If this gets published it will be a miracle because race makes everyone edgy in the establishment and, of course, it’s me, so it will be controversial. We will see……

 

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Yellowface publications (open access)

Before Christmas, in response to the Print Room controversy over the casting of Howard Barker’s latest play, I mentioned that I would make my publications on yellowface (on the RSC’s The Orphan of Zhao) open access. It took a bit longer than I expected but ta-da! These are the accepted versions (so they are PDFs, not journal final copies). Please remember that these are copyrighted publications and any quotations must be attributed to me/Ashley and me.

The Editorial I co-authored with Dr Ashley Thorpe can be downloaded here:

https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa18713

My piece ‘Asian Mutations’ on Yellowface in contemporary British theatre can be downloaded here:

https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa18712

Enjoy.

 

Interview with Dr Dave O’Brien

The other week I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Dr Dave O’Brien at Goldsmith’s about my book for the New Books in Critical Theory website. The podcast/audio file is now available, open access and therefore free, at the site here: http://newbooksincriticaltheory.com/2015/03/25/amanda-rogers-performing-asian-transnationalisms-theatre-identity-and-the-geographies-of-performance-routledge-2015/

He wrote a really great blurb for it which I am unashamedly cribbing here:

Identity, performance and globalisation are at the heart of the cultural practices interrogated by Amanda Rogers in Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, Identity and the Geography of Performance (Routledge, 2015). The book explores the global networks of theatre that have emerged between Asia, America and Europe, using a variety of policy, practice and political examples. The book argues that globalisation, and the attendant transnational flows of people and culture, has both the potential to create theatre careers and new, important, works, whist at the same time constraining individuals, communities and cultural forms. The book draws on a rich combination of ethnographic and interview data, along with theoretically informed cultural analysis, using examples ranging from The British Council and the Singapore Art Festival, through Asian American and British East Asian identities, to controversial performances of the Orphan of Zhao. The book will be of primary interest to cultural, geography and performance scholars, but has valuable insights for social science and the humanities more generally.

I hope I do it, and everyone I met through the project, justice. I was a bit nervous and I admit that I am not going to listen to it to spare myself any embarrassment, though I have received some nice compliments so far. We talked about a range of issues, including how I got into this area in the first place, the merging of passion and theory, some of the specifics of the research such as questions of scale, race and performance in different contexts, geographies of performance and transnationalism, policy making, the variety of approaches that I take, and what I am doing next. It’s about 50 mins long. Enjoy!

My book is finally here!

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!

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Available at extortionate cost at  http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415854382/

 

How to write a book

I meant to post this ages ago, I wrote it but forgot to press publish. Anyway, here are my thoughts on how (not) to write a book based on my recent experience. A few people asked, so here you are:

1. Don’t wait for the contract: I spent ages sending my book to various publishers. I got some rejection letters but Routledge said yes after review. During this waiting period I felt paralysed, thinking, what’s the point of writing the book (apart from the intro and the sample chapter) if it won’t get published? I never felt motivated without the contract but I should have had more faith. It will get published eventually, so don’t procrastinate.

2. Publishers don’t always do exactly as they say on a website: There was a publisher I liked, but on their website they wanted the intro and three chapters. After I had signed a contract with Routledge, the academic editor of this publisher approached me and said, ‘I hear you have a book and I think I might like it’ and I replied, ‘But I’ve signed and even now I haven’t written as much as you say you want on your website.’ He told me he’d have looked at the intro and one chapter – that would have been enough. So contact every editor.

3. Which series? Where to put it? I went for geography initially, but I felt increasingly like what geographers wanted from a ‘geographies of performance’ book wasn’t what I wanted to write. Like many other geographers, my book therefore isn’t published in geography but I don’t view this as a problem because publishers can cross-market. Someone recently said to me, ‘it is easier for books to travel into geography, rather than out from geography, especially when written by a geographer.’ Time will tell.

4. Know what you want to say and who you want to speak to. What I have written is an interdisciplinary book from a geographical background. I have agonised about audience because different disciplines use different methods, have different modes of analysis and expect different things. I have tried to create a coherent approach that allows geography and theatre studies to speak to one another. However, I have a feeling that it will generate a ‘marmite’ reaction. I hope that this means I am doing something different.

5. Write the book during the grant. Or at least draft some of it. I did very little of either.

6. Do not try to write a book in the first year and a bit of a new lectureship like I did. It hurts when you have new lectures to prepare, tutorials, a new system to learn, a new university, a new city, new colleagues, a new life….. and my university gave me a light load for my first year. The transition from postdoc to lecturer plus book was tough.

7. If you get one day a week of writing done during teaching then that’s great. If I told myself I should be doing 2 or 3 days, I felt like a failure. 1 day seemed realistic, plus weekend.

8. Ruthlessly carve out one day a week. Mentally thinking of everything as revolving around the book made a difference.

9. Find how you write during term time. There are different opinions on this: I met professors who told me that they had to write every day, they set aside two hours in the morning or the evening every day to write. I tried this, I got tired, grumpy, and when I had a first draft of the book, the chapter I wrote from 7-9 or 8-10 every morning, was, quite frankly, shit, and I had to completely scrap it and start again. I found the ‘day a week’ model worked better for me, largely because my work pattern is to sit and process ideas from maybe 9-4, then write about 2,000 words from 4-6. Sometimes I tried to run a spare Friday into a spare Monday and get 4 days in a row. That’s when I could churn.

10. Switch off the internet. Switch off email. Switch off the router. Just SWITCH IT OFF!

11. Do not take on the Admissions role, even the Deputy Admissions role, whilst writing a book. You will lose every Wednesday and some Saturdays, especially between Christmas and Easter. I only managed it because we have an admissions team, I had a March 1st deadline and was basically killing myself anyway in the final throws.

12. Make sure you have understanding family and friends. Warn them that you will disappear.

13. Prepare to be working every day during every holiday. But do have a holiday at some point.

14. Print each chapter as you go along. It makes you feel like the book is actually happening when you see chapters stacking up.

15. The first draft isn’t the final thing. You want it to be but it isn’t. The first edit isn’t the final thing. You want it to be but it isn’t. The third part, the micro-edit is where it happens.

16. The last month will kill you, because you’ll be pulling 14 plus hour days to finish the [insert your favourite exhausted expletive here], especially if you have a full teaching/admin load.

17.  Have something new in the pipeline to look forward to because you will feel deflated afterwards. I went on holiday, but before finishing I applied for a month-long fellowship to pursue new research abroad. Which is what I am doing now. It’s helped me think about what I am doing next, what papers I need to write from my older and new projects. But it’s been refreshing to do something a bit different.

18. The index will kill you. I haven’t done it yet, but I know it is going to drive me insane and take 3 days.

19. One professor told me, ‘Your book is fantastic by sheer virtue of the fact that it exists.’

20. Finally, I’m preparing for shameless self-promotion in order that someone actually reads this thing in the era of articles. But I’m proud because, after all, it’s based on a decade of research and taken 18 months to write. So here’s my plug: My book, Performing Asian Transnationalisms: theatre, identity and the geographies of performance will be out in August as part of the Routledge Advances in Theatre Studies series. The link is here (but I wish they’d update it as this IS NOT the final book description):

http://www.routledge.com/catalogs/theatre_and_performance_studies/1/8/

Book.Sent.To.Publishers.

This morning I finally sent my monograph Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, identity and the geographies of performance to Routledge. Hurrah!

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People have asked me to write a blog post about writing a book, and I will do that in the next week or so when I have recovered! I am a bit wiped out from the final part of the process.

Here is the blurb I wrote for the publishers. It’s an interdisciplinary book for those in Geography and Theatre Studies…… I’m afraid I’ve run out of words for the time being!

This book makes a significant contribution to interdisciplinary engagements between Theatre Studies and Cultural Geography in its analysis of how theatre articulates transnational geographies of Asian culture and identity. Deploying a geographical approach to transnational culture, Rogers analyses the cross-border relationships that exist within and between Asian American, British East Asian, and South East Asian theatres, investigating the effect of transnationalism on the construction of identity, the development of creative praxis, and the reception of works in different social fields. This book therefore examines how practitioners engage with one another across borders, and details the cross-cultural performances, creative opportunities, and political alliances that result. By viewing ethnic minority theatres as part of global — rather than simply national — cultural fields, Rogers argues that transnational relationships take multiple forms and have varying impetuses that cannot always be equated to diasporic longing for a homeland or as strategically motivated for economic gain. This argument is developed through a series of chapters that examine how different transnational spatialities are produced and re-worked through the practice of theatre making, drawing upon an analysis of rehearsals, performances, festivals, and semi-structured interviews with practitioners. The book extends existing discussions of performance and globalization, particularly through its focus on the multiplicity of transnational spatiality and the networks between English-language Asian theatres. Its analysis of spatially extensive relations also contributes to an emerging body of research on creative geographies by situating theatrical praxis in relation to cross-border flows. Performing Asian Transnationalisms demonstrates how performances reflect and rework conventional transnational geographies in imaginative and innovative ways.