News

Reminder:  Refracted from the Canon: The Transmuted Form of Europe’s Ambassador to Africa – a talk by Sola Adeyemi (26 May 2022, 6pm BST)

A reminder that Sola Adeyemi‘s talk Refracted from the Canon: The Transmuted Form of Europe’s Ambassador to Africa will take place on Thursday 26 May 2022, at 6 pm BST (online).

This is the third of three events in the CCL’s Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2022

In this presentation, Sola Adeyemi will explore the idea of tragedy from the perspective of Yoruba culture, framing this exploration from the refracted premise of classical European canon and how the meaning of tragedy has been altered to become part of the arsenal of anticolonial agency as deployed to the consecrated ritual space of the Yoruba people of West Africa. Focusing on the re-reading – or re-interpretation – of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarkand Euripides’ Bacchae, the talk aims to show that the process of re-interpreting the essence of the canonical god in the new space of Yoruba culture, or of translating the attributes with a new understanding and awareness, is more dialectical and more interwoven than the historical or anthropological process of re-working canonical texts by African writers…. Read more.

Attendance is free but booking will be essential to receive a link to attend.

The talk will be recorded and a video will be posted on the event’s webpage as soon as possible after the end.

Dr Sola Adeyemi is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of East Anglia. His researches are in world theatre and performance studies, African Literary Studies, and postcolonial literature and theatre (and the themes of decolonial and Global South studies). He is the author of Vision of Change in African Drama: Deconstructing Identity and Reconfiguring History (2019). Currently, he is working on ‘Dramatizing the Postcolony: Nigerian Drama and Theatre. His latest research is on performances after apartheid in South Africa and in Nigeria after the military dictatorship morphed into situations of ‘undeclared’ pre-colonial feudalistic insurrections, titled “Laughing from Both Barrels: New Satire in Modern African Performances”.

Sola’s talk will be chaired by Professor Samuel Kasule. Professor Kasule holds a BA in English and Drama and Diploma in Education from Makerere University, Uganda, and MA in Theatre Studies and PhD in Drama and Theatre from the University of Leeds. He is a founding member of the African Theatre Association and founding Reviews Editor of African Performance Review (APR). He was the President of the African Theatre Association between 2014 and 2020. His latest work (with Osita Okagbue) is Theatre and Performance in East Africa (London: Routledge, 2021).

 

 

CCL Spectacular Orientalism Conference programme

The CCL is pleased to announce the Programme of the Conference Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe (1529-1683).

The conference will be held on the afternoons of 8 and 9 June 2022:

Day One: The Public Stage (8 June 2022, 1:45-5.00pm, BST)

Day Two: Festivals (9 June 2022, 2.00-5.00pm, BST)

These two half-days of talks and discussion will explore new perspectives on the representation of the Orient in early modern European art and performance between 1529 and 1683, the period framed by the two sieges of Vienna by Ottoman armies.

The conference will examine different settings in which the Orient was imagined and talked about. In particular it will interrogate various types of public display common in early modern societies, in which the self-projection of power and identity was often interwoven with the spectacle of the Other: courtly and public festivals, civic ceremonies and rituals, etc.

It will also consider staged productions, notably operas and ballets, whose multisensorial character added to the inherent orientalist tendency towards display, while heightening the attraction of the exotic for their audiences.

Find out more about the event, read the abstracts, and book to attend (registration is free but it is required to receive the link to attend).

Please check the programme page again in case of last-minute amendments.

The Conference is organised by the CCL in collaboration with the Society for European Festivals Research.

 

Reminder:  Reimagining the Victorian Past in African and in Black Diasporic Theatre – a talk by Tiziana Morosetti (19 May 2022, 6pm BST)

A reminder that Tiziana Morosetti‘s talk Reimagining the Victorian Past in African and in Black Diasporic Theatre will take place on Thursday 19 May 2022, at 6 pm BST (online).

This is the second of three events in the CCL’s Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2022

Several African American and Black British playwrights have engaged in the past 25 years with material from the Victorian past. If issues of slavery and segregation have been at the forefront, aligning theatre to neo-Victorian and neo-Slavery narratives, Black playwrights have also engaged with specific figures from the long 19th century. Tiziana Morosetti’s paper will consider recent Black British plays that specifically engage with the Victorian past and will compare them to two Nigerian examples that display similar engagement. The paper will argue these examples, while displaying a closer focus on African history and overall different aesthetics, complement the vision of Black British playwrights by commenting on, and proposing counter-narratives to, the relation between Black cultures and white British power during the reign of Victoria… Read more.

Attendance is free but booking will be essential to receive a link to attend.

The talk will be recorded and a video will be posted on the talk’s page as soon as possible after the end.

Dr Tiziana Morosetti is an Associate Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is also an affiliate to the African Studies Centre, Oxford. She works on representations of race, Blackness and diversity on the 19th-century and contemporary British stage; and on Black drama, especially African. She is the editor of Staging the Other in Nineteenth-century British Drama (Peter Lang 2016), Africa on the Contemporary London Stage (Palgrave 2018) and, with Osita Okagbue, The Palgrave Handbook of Theatre and Race (2021). She is the General Secretary of the African Theatre Association UK (AfTA) and the co-founder and deputy director of the journal Quaderni del ’900.

Tiziana’s talk will be chaired by Lynette Goddard, Professor of Black Theatre and Performance at Royal Holloway, University of London. Their research focuses on documenting and analysing the contemporary histories of contemporary Black British theatre by looking at the politics of representation and the careers of performers, playwrights and directors. As well as numerous articles and chapters, they have published two full-length monographs Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance (Palgrave, 2007) and Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream (Palgrave, 2015), one shorter book, Errol John’s Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (Routledge, 2017), and co-edited Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama (Palgrave, 2014). They selected and introduced the plays for The Methuen Drama Book of Plays by Black British Writers (2011) and wrote introductions for Mojisola Adebayo Plays One (Oberon, 2011) and Mojisola Adebayo Plays Two (Oberon, 2019). They are currently co-editing the anthology Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners (Methuen) and the two-volume Routledge History of Contemporary British Theatre.

Reminder:  ‘Hear the Bones Sing’: Postcolonial Ghost Plays – a talk by Clare Finburgh-Delijani (5 May 2022, 6pm BST)

A reminder that Clare Finburgh-Delijani‘s talk ‘Hear the Bones Sing’: Postcolonial Ghost Plays will take place on Thursday 5 May 2022, at 6 pm BST (online).

This is the first of three events in the CCL’s Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2022

What can ghosts teach us about how to live together in postcolonial societies such as the UK or France?

Clare Finburgh Delijani’s paper examines how a range of playwrights on both sides of the Atlantic are evoking colonial pasts, and their impact on the present, via ghosts. Revenants in these plays return to demand repair for injustices perpetrated in the past. At the same time, spectres create a doubling, the indeterminacy of which troubles monocultural notions of national identity, instead proposing postcolonial societies as a multi-ethnic and multidenominational…. Read more.

Attendance is free but booking will be essential to receive a link to attend.

The talk will be recorded and a video will be posted on the event’s page as soon as possible after its end.

 

Professor Clare Finburgh Delijani, Deputy Director of the CCL, is a researcher and teacher in the Department of Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths University of London. She has written and edited many books and articles on theatre from France, the French-speaking world and the UK, including a special issue of Théâtre/Public on the Situationist International (2019), The Great Stage Directors: Littlewood, Planchon, Strehler (2018, with Peter Boenisch), Watching War on the Twenty-First-Century Stage: Spectacles of Conflict (2017), Rethinking the Theatre of the Absurd: Ecology, the Environment and the Greening of the Modern Stage (2015, with Carl Lavery) and Jean Genet (2012, with David Bradby). She is currently writing a book on theatre in France that addresses the nation’s colonial past, and multi-ethnic present.

Clare’s talk will be chaired by Dr. Mairi Neeves, Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. Mairi’s work includes We are all Rwandans (as production manager; 2008), winner of Best World Cinema Short, Phoenix International Film Festival 2008; the documentary on Apartheid in Israel/Palestine Hidden From View (as co-director/producer; 2007); and the feature length documentary on extreme global poverty 58 – The Film (as writer, assistant director/producer; 2011).

Announcing the CCL Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2022

The CCL is delighted to announce its May 2022 series of talks on Postcolonial Theatre.

This series of three talks by members of the Goldsmiths Department of Theatre and Performance will examine how contemporary theatre from the UK, USA, France and West Africa is staging legacies of colonial history in postcolonial societies today.

All talks will be online and will start at 6pm BST.

Booking is free but is necessary for each event to receive a link to attend.


We start on 5 May 2022 with Clare Finburgh-Delijani‘s talk ‘Hear the Bones Sing’: Postcolonial Ghost Plays.

What can ghosts teach us about how to live together in postcolonial societies such as the UK or France?

Clare Finburgh Delijani’s paper examines how a range of playwrights on both sides of the Atlantic are evoking colonial pasts, and their impact on the present, via ghosts. Revenants in these plays return to demand repair for injustices perpetrated in the past. At the same time, spectres create a doubling, the indeterminacy of which troubles monocultural notions of national identity, instead proposing postcolonial societies as a multi-ethnic and multidenominational…. Read more and book.


On 19 May 2022, Tiziana Morosetti will give the second talk, Reimagining the Victorian Past in African and in Black Diasporic Theatre.

Several African American and Black British playwrights have engaged in the past 25 years with material from the Victorian past. If issues of slavery and segregation have been at the forefront, aligning theatre to neo-Victorian and neo-Slavery narratives, Black playwrights have also engaged with specific figures from the long 19th century. Tiziana Morosetti’s paper will consider recent Black British plays that specifically engage with the Victorian past and will compare them to two Nigerian examples that display similar engagement. The paper will argue these examples, while displaying a closer focus on African history and overall different aesthetics, complement the vision of Black British playwrights by commenting on, and proposing counter-narratives to, the relation between Black cultures and white British power during the reign of Victoria… Read more and book.


And on 26 May 2022, Sola Adeyemi Refracted from the Canon: The Transmuted Form of Europe’s Ambassador to Africa.

In this presentation, Sola Adeyemi will explore the idea of tragedy from the perspective of Yoruba culture, framing this exploration from the refracted premise of classical European canon and how the meaning of tragedy has been altered to become part of the arsenal of anticolonial agency as deployed to the consecrated ritual space of the Yoruba people of West Africa. Focusing on the re-reading – or re-interpretation – of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarkand Euripides’ Bacchae, the talk aims to show that the process of re-interpreting the essence of the canonical god in the new space of Yoruba culture, or of translating the attributes with a new understanding and awareness, is more dialectical and more interwoven than the historical or anthropological process of re-working canonical texts by African writers…. Read more and book.

 

‘Spectacular Orientalism’ Conference postponed

The conference Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe (1529-1683), planned for 24-25 February 2022, has been postponed to 8-9 June 2022, due to the renewed strike action by Goldsmiths staff against a large number of redundancies and restructuring imposed by the College’s senior management, which would directly affect the staff in comparative literature and translation studies and in the CCL, as well as many other staff in the Departments of English & Creative Writing and of History and across the College.

This article, published last Autumn, this page by the Goldsmiths University and College Union and this article by Goldsmiths’ Collective Change give additional context and information.

We thank our speakers for agreeing to postpone the conference, and our members and audience for your patience and your support of the CCL.

Lucia Boldrini, CCL Director, and Marie-Claude Canova-Green, Deputy Director and organiser of the postponed event

How to think plurality?

We gratefully receive these thoughts from Professor Ipshita Chanda. They feel very relevant to the season, and we share them on Christmas day.

 

Put some salt in water – and look! Watch the fun
What name will you give salt, when the mixing’s done?
Thus guided by the Prophet submit your self to god
What name will you call self, when self and god are one?

The poet is the Sufi master Khwaja Banda Nawaz GesuDaraz, who lived in the early 15th century and is credited with introducing Sufi tariqa to the Deccan in southern India. This verse can easily be interpreted as referring to the state of fanaa, the union with god towards which the Sufi practitioner is journeying through living this life following the way of a master. In the state of fanaa, the seeker abandons the self and becomes one with god. The state of erasing difference, however, must needs be preceded by acknowledging its existence – hence the need to see it in its infinite variety in every grain of salt. That is the ground for the question, “how to think plurality?”

And so, we may begin with the writer of the lines quoted above.

GesuDaraz wrote in Persian and in Dakkhni, a language used in the southern part of India. It spread over a vast area thanks to teachers and seers of various Sufi orders who crafted and used this language to spread their message to the common people who did not understand Persian. The local languages of the South belong to a language family unfamiliar in the northern part of India, and so, the language developed across the area of influence of the saints and seers combined at least two language families, or to put it more exactly, variations of two language families. Dakkhni combines vocabulary, cultural references and usage from Persian with the same from languages of the Indo Aryan and of the Dravidian families. GesuDaraz travelled across the Deccan and spent his last years in Gulbarga, now in Maharashtra, close upon the border with the neighbouring state, Karnataka. The variety of Dakkhni he used combined the local languages Marathi and Kannada, Hindustani, common to Northern India, and the philosophical and spiritual vocabulary of Sufism in Persian.

Dakkhni, however is not an “official” or scheduled language, that is, it is not recognised by the Indian constitution’s VIII Schedule, where 24 official languages are listed. Why is this so?

The idea of having no single language as official or national when a variety of languages was spoken and the languages were so closely related, indicates a desire on the part of the policy makers to foster this natural plurality, thus acknowledging and preserving both the systemic relations and the difference between the languages and cultures included within the geopolitical area demarcated as India. But perhaps under the influence of the colonial idea of language standardisation, instead of taking cognisance of the relational dynamics between plural languages characterised by “fuzzy boundaries”, an atomist model of languages prevailed. In this model, each language was seen as a complete unit, closed off from other languages, even while they all coexisted within geographical space. Dakkhni could not be thus standardised. It does not fit into an atomist model as it remains a confluence of many language families and cultures, and it cannot be ascribed to any specific linguistic state as it is spoken across three states.

If, indeed, we had been able to think of plurality as entities-in-relation rather than as many self-contained discrete entities, we would have begun to question the very idea of single- language literary systems as sealed off from each other. Literature as a human activity would then be constituted by our relation with the world and with others through language, the “medium of our intersubjectivity”, the medium of our “intentional relation to the world” (Syed A. Sayeed, “Dismantling the Political”, in Mangesh Kulkarni ed., Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Political Theory, SAGE India, 2011).

If we are ready to grant this as a perspective, a place from where we see, a sensible and conceptual world coordinated through language, let us call our perspective pluralist. From this perspective our existence is seen as a set of relations to a plural world, in which there are others, entities and objects of endless variety. Our lives comprise expressions of our own and translation of others’, thoughts and feelings into actions and responses. Our actions cannot be absolute or isolated, they are directed and intentional – as acting embodied consciousness, we each take responsibility for our actions. A relational perspective is, therefore, a dynamic one. It means a concrete, continuous engagement, much like existence itself.

The necessity for understanding becomes even more urgent and commonplace when we think of our existence as being in relation with: therein lies the radical irreducibility of an other: any and every other. So, thinking plurality entails thinking that alterity is irreducible, but essential to human existence.

Thereafter, the choice is ours.

If we intend to willingly make that choice, thinking plurality requires that we look at two objects in relation within a frame, a perspective, without introduction of a value hierarchy. This is a pluralist perspective, from which we can see the relation between entities rather than entities alone.

And this brings us to the ethical question which underlies any relation between subjects: how to understand the other without reducing it to our assumptions, our obsessions and our prejudices? What becomes of these in the encounter with an other?

And who can predict that, infallibly or even randomly?

The very being of difference demands that the enigmatic remain so, inciting in us the sense of wonder and perhaps discomfort and adjustment that all human encounters have to surmount or contain in order to occur.

So to think plurality we have travelled from language to world view. With little effect. Because at least where I am located, despite this being a daily reality, we have yet to see it clearly enough to start recasting our thinking towards it, though we live immersed in it.

And to thank you for walking through my thoughts with me, I offer you some lines from the introduction to Padumavat. Malik Muhammad Jaysi wrote the Padumavat in1540. Jaysi followed a Sufi master, but he uses allegorical imagery drawn from the beliefs of the Gorakhpanthis, a sect of yogic practitioners based in northern India. They are followers of Gorakhnath, who learnt the truth of creation from his master Matsyendra, who overheard Shiva himself telling it to his wife Parvati. Jaysi was the first known poet of Awadhi, part of the collection of linked languages prevalent in west and central India, known as Hindustani and used by Tulsidas to write Ramcharitmanas, his retelling of Valmiki’s Ramayan. After the hamdnaat, or introductory invocation marking his obeisance to Allah, Jaysi writes:

Turki, Arabi, Hindawi, whate’er be the tongue you speak
All the world will praise your words, if the path of love you seek.

In a world burdened by the ravages of identity, can we consider his exhortation?

 

Ipshita Chanda is Professor of Comparative Literature at the Department of Comparative Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, and translates between Hindi, Bangla, Urdu and English

‘Dance, Performance and Politics’ talk postponed

Professor Margaret McGowan’s talk on Dance, Performance and Politics: A Study of how Choreography developed in Court Ballets to meet changing political needs has been postponed to a date to be confirmed, due to the strike by Goldsmiths staff against a large number of redundancies and restructuring imposed by the College’s senior management, which would directly affect the staff in comparative literature and translation studies and in the CCL, as well as many other staff in the Departments of English & Creative Writing and of History and across the College.

We thank our speaker, Professor Margaret M. McGowan, and the respondent, Dr Jennifer Nevile, for their support.

If you wish to support us, you can sign this Open Letter.

This article, just published, and this page by the Goldsmiths University and College Union give additional context and information.

We shall publish the new date of the event as soon as we are able to do so.

Thank you, in the meantime, for your patience and your support of the CCL.

Lucia Boldrini, CCL Director, and Marie-Claude Canova-Green, Deputy Director and Chair of the postponed event

Multilingualism and Global Humanities in the Time of Covid-19 Pandemic

Professor Wen-Chin Ouyang reflects on the crisis of the humanities and how they are necessary to our lives

London. Sunday. 24 October 2021. Morning. For the first time in years I open my eyes to sunshine filtering through the bedroom curtains. I grabbed my mobile. 9:16 am. I am 16 minutes late calling my mother in Taipei. There have been earthquakes here, my mother says as soon as she picks up the phone, of magnitude 6.5 on the Richter scale. I turn to The Guardian on my iPad and look for more details. My heart sinks as I read ‘New university job cuts fuel rising outrage on campuses’. Goldsmiths has announced 52 compulsory redundancies among professional staff and academics, the latter all in English and the humanities. I heard about the job cuts from friends at Goldsmiths’ Centre for Comparative Literature but reading about them in The Guardian I am glad in a perverse way that the crisis at Goldsmith has made national news. Perhaps it is time for us to stare the crisis in languages and humanities in the eye. SOAS recently went through a similar experience. Despite the rigour of our research and the recognition of the importance of languages and humanities in our daily life, funding cuts and low recruitment in many of our academic programmes, exacerbated further by the Covid-19 pandemic in the past two years, have led to massive job cuts accompanied by curriculum reform. Many languages have disappeared or are disappearing from school and university curricula and literature offerings are greatly diminished. Looking at the Arabic Programme(s) at SOAS from the prism of what I knew when I first moved to London in 1997, I see ruins of what once was. The MA Arabic Literature was withdrawn together with most of the advanced BA and MA literature modules. Our language modules are reduced in intensity. It is becoming increasing difficult to graduate students with high levels of language proficiency, cultural literacy, and literary skills, just as the world needs them even more than ever. I am reminded of the opening lines of a long qasida poem (translated by Suzanne Stetkevych) by Labid, a sixth century Arab poet, who stood before the campsite of his departed beloved and lamented:

Effaced are the abodes,
brief encampments and long-settled ones;
At Mina the wilderness has claimed
Mount Ghaul and Mount Rijam.

Then I stopped and questioned them,
but how do we question
Mute immortals whose speech
is indistinct.

Stripped bare where once a folk had dwelled,
then one morn departed;
Abandoned lay the trench that ran around the tent,
The thumam grass that plugged their holes.

But I do not wish to lapse into melancholy. Rather, I want to dare to hope against hope, to will a rebuilding from the abandoned dwellings starting from left behind traces, for the Covid-19 pandemic has paradoxically shown us how instrumental languages and humanities are in the ways individuals and communities are responding to the challenges posed by the new coronavirus. A team of SOAS colleagues have been gathering information about the ways in which different linguistic communities in London are responding to Covid-19. Their work on “cultural translation and interpreting of Covid-19 risks” is a UKRI/AHRC Covid-19 research project. From the statistics published to-date, we can see that multilingualism is at work in how migrant communities access information. Most migrant communities access information outside the UK and in languages other than English. And the information they read comes from “formal” news channels (the BBC and the recognized news papers) as well as social media, tabloids, and “collective wisdom” inherited from a history of managing pandemics going around in their global communities through, let us say, chats on their mobile phones. Just as the new coronavirus has connected the “fate” of the entire globe, multilingualism and technology have also brought the globe into one “destiny.” We are struggling together to contain the spread of Covid-19 and at the same time to work out our individual and collective code of conduct under the circumstances of global entanglement.

This has been that space where similar issues have been raised, interrogated and “translated” into everyday conduct. Ibn Butlan, a Christian physician from Baghdad, who left behind a work on medicine and another on his travels in the Middle East, chose to write in the adab tradition pioneered by Ibn al-Muqaffa‘, and in a literary form, the classical Arabic maqama, about the attitudes of the physicians towards illness, and particularly the plague of 1154-55, and their patients, and more importantly “truth” about the plague. Ibn Butlan does not deign to tell us what “truth” is, but by dramatizing the politics of “truth,” the details that go into each version, and the cost of these in actual lives lost (to the plague), he makes visible and tangible the consequences of each thought and each action on individuals and their community. This is the role the humanities have always played, and can still play, if we adjust our academic approach to them.

As early as 2008, Rita Felski examined in Uses of Literature the paradox pervasive in academic study of literature. Critics justify the importance of their work by focusing on the “uniqueness” of the literary work, and by doing so privileging “distinctiveness,” “difference” and “otherness.” For, in the view of many, “the otherness of literature” is precisely “the source of its radical transformative potential”. However, “separating literature from everything around it, critics fumble to explain how works of art arise from and move back into the social world.” Felski goes on to say, “highlighting literature’s uniqueness, they overlook the equally salient realities of its own connectedness.” By calling her book “uses of literature” she proposes pluralizing reading practices, to include the familiar political and ideological and at the same time to go beyond these “to engage with the worldly.” The four part process of textual engagement she delineates, “recognition,” “enchantment,” “knowledge” and “shock” brings literature back to “configurations of social knowledge.” And this “social knowledge” tailored for the Covid-19 situation is what we need now and what world literature and the global humanities can offer.

My thoughts return to Goldsmiths and my mother in Taipei. I will be going to Taipei for the 2022 ACLA annual meeting. Being in my mother’s time zone will alleviate my anxiety about staying in touch with her, but taking part in a comparative literature conference will not, I am sure, calm my fears about the future of languages and the humanities. But we must find a way to show our funders and students the importance of languages and the humanities. That instead of cutting we should be strengthening, expanding and proliferating our offerings in these. For what needs working out is not just decisions about vaccination but also details of our everyday living.

Wen-chin Ouyang, FBA, is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London. Born in Taiwan and raised in Libya, she has a BA in Arabic from Tripoli University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University.