Theatricality, Performance and the State: a two day conference at Queen Mary University of London 7-8 June 2018 Arts 1 Lecture Theatre



“In order to work,” Samir Amin remarks, “capitalism requires the intervention of a collective authority representing capital as a whole. Therefore, the state cannot be separated from capitalism.” While seemingly self-evident, this insight sits at odds with a tendency in theatre and performance studies and in political theory towards what Mitchell Dean and Kaspar Villadsen, following Foucault, have diagnosed as ‘state-phobia’ (2016). In this framework the state figures as an outmoded analytical category, to be replaced by neoliberal market forces and other de-centred analytics of power. Thus, theatre and performance – as well as the ‘creative economies’ more broadly – come to be evoked as either unwittingly complicit in the retraction of the state from governance and welfare (Bishop, 2012), or conversely held up as either instantiations of civil society (Jackson, 2011) or as an oppositional public sphere that has the potential to escape the state’s long arm (Balme, 2014).

While these interventions all offer useful insights into performance’s relationship to neoliberal governance models, the recurring oversight of the role of the state in its imbrication with both performance and discourses of theatricality runs risk of eliding this relationship altogether. Yet, since Plato at least, the dangers and uses of theatre to real or idealised states has been a recurring feature in philosophical, governmental and political discourses. Moving beyond the focus on ‘anti-theatrical’ prejudice (Barish, 1981) which often informs the analysis of these discourses, what else might be uncovered through reflecting on the usefulness of theatre and performance for articulations of theories of statehood? Additionally, as posited by Amin, if the state cannot be separated from capitalism, what might be the value of discussing performance and theatre through (re)considering the state as central to the relationship between theatre and capitalism? Conversely, how might theories of performance and theatricality allow for a renewed understanding of the state’s position in globalized capitalism? Following on from this, how might reading the globalised economy alongside the ‘planetary extension of the state’ (Lefebvre, 1975) expand understandings of theatre’s political function across regional sites? How do states participate in the performance of the “world-configuring function,” (Balibar) of borders, especially considering the living legacies of colonialism and decolonization and the contemporary prevalence of geopolitical isolationism and border regimes? Can the state continue to be thought of a site of progressive struggle?

This conference aims to address an epistemological lacuna by bringing the modern state back to centre stage in thinking about and through theatre, theatricality and performance.

Theatricality, Performance and the State

7-8 June 2018

Arts 1 Lecture Theatre, Arts 1 Building

Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road


Thursday 7 of June


14: Welcome and Opening Remarks (Faisal Hamadah)


14.15-15.45 Panel 1 (chair Faisal Hamadah)

Stephen Wilmer, Trinity College Dublin

Reconsidering Political Designations in the work of Yael Ronen


Simon Bell, Anglia Ruskin University

The NSK State in Time: the first global state of the universe


John Whitney, Reading University

The Othering Has Already Begun: Exploring Socio-Political Narrative Performance Games in a State/Stateless Context


15.45-16.00 : Break


16 – 17.45 Panel 2 (chair Martin Young)

Sarah Bartley, Queen Mary University of London

‘Sitting Idle’: The Prison Workshop and Economies of Participation


Lucy Clarke, Jesus College Oxford

Enacting Justice: A Knack to Know A Knave, the state, and the theatre as alternative jurisdictional space


Philippa Burt, Goldsmiths University of London

Colluding to Protect the State?: The Case of the Arts Council, Special Branch and Theatre Workshop


5.45- 6.45 Wine Reception

7.00: We invite our attendees to join us at the creative showcase organised by the ‘Of survival an struggle symposium’, featuring Mojisola Adebayo’s The Killing of Sandra Bland and more. 

Evening Creative Showcase – Film and Drama Studio, Arts Two
Mojisola Adebayo
Uzma Falak
Meena Kandasamy – TBC
Nitasha Kaul
Mirza Waheed

Please register for the showcase separately using the following link – the showcase is also free:


Friday 8 of June

10.30-11 Arrival and coffee (provided)

11-12.30: Keynote address 

Tony Fisher, Central School of Speech and Drama

Theatre State/Theatre Stasis

Chaired by Nicholas Ridout


12.30-13.30: Lunch (provided)


13.30-15.00 Panel 3 (chair tbc )


Ella Parry-Davies

Amos Yee and the Little Red Dot: Queering Postcolonial Citizenship in the Asian Continent


Emilia Weber, University College London

Bloody Sunday: Performing Memories against the State


Charlotte Young, Queen Mary University of London

‘My name is Janez Janša’: The curious reproduction of the Slovenian prime minister. 


15-15.15: Break


15.15-16.45 Panel 4 (chair Shane Boyle)

Julia Peetz, University of Surrey

The State Performing Against Itself: US presidential populism and oppositional practice


Brahma Prakash, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

(Un)Performing Modi: What Modi does with Words, Slogans, Voice, Image, and Gestures?


Katherine Goktepe, University of Edinburgh

Acting Styles and Celebrity Politics in Historical Perspective


16.45-16.50: Comfort Break


16.50-18.20 Panel 5 (chair Caoimhe Mader McGuinness)

Diana Benea, University of Bucharest

“No rights and no country”: Mediating Undocumentedness as Statelessness in Mia Chung, Jessica Litwak, Chiori Miyagawa, Saviana Stănescu, and Andrea Thome’s Dream Acts (2012 -)


Shane Boyle, Queen Mary University of London

The “Left” Case Against State Subsidies for Theatre


Rachel Cockburn, Independent scholar

The State of Love on the Southbank: eros, agape and governmentality at the Festival of Love (2016).


18.20-18.30: Closing Remarks (Caoimhe Mader McGuinness)


18.30: Wine reception

After the reception, attendees are welcome to join us at the Lord Tredegar pub for further drinks (food available)


















Organisers/Furter information, please contact Faisal Hamadah ( or Caoimhe Mader McGuinness (