restricted access Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance by Jill Dolan (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews JILL DOLAN . Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 200 l. Pp. 209. $45.00 (Hb); $t9.95 (Pb). Reviewed by Rosalind Kerr, University ofA/berta Jill Dolan offers Geographies of Learning to progressive scholars and teachers in the disciplines of theatre and performance studies, women's studies, and lesbian/gay/queer studies to help map out strategies to fight against the increasingly hostile conservative forces ranked against them. Her overriding concern is to foster political activism by encouraging interdisciplinarity and using theatrical perfonnance as a means of promoting more equitable values. She follows her introductory chapter with five additional chapters, many reworked from earlier articles, in which she draws on her own experiences as activist, scholar, and administrator to address pressing concerns "that stall the progress of acute, progressive knowledge production" (17) in her various fields. She concludes each chapter with action lists that urge readers to implement the series of changes outlined in the chapters. These action lists are complemented at the end of the book by an extensive lisl of addresses of progressive organizations and agencies across the United States. Chapter two focuses on ways to bridge the divisions and dissensions separating "Iesbian/gay/queer/transgender activists and academics" (34) by urging them to form coalitions "based on their similar experience of oppressive social struclures" (35). Lamenting the serious problems created by the theory/practice divide that separates academics and practitioners/activists, Dolan cautions against falling for queer theory at the expense of denying the actual gender inequities that feminist/lesbian materialists continue to observe. Citing some of the problems she encountered as the Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York, she urges academics to be vigilant in reaching out to their communities in order to avoid misunderstandings and foster mutual respecl. In the next chapter, Dolan reiterates the theory/practice divide in theatre studies and makes a fervent plea to theatre departments to overcome narrow. outdated prejudices in order to create innovative theatre that serves as "a laboratory for reimagining social relations" (50). Areas to be addressed include conflicts that arise between traditional and poststructuralist approaches to curricula , between researchers and practitioners. and between commercially viable and experimental theatre seasons. Finally, Dolan urges progressive faculty to be proactive in educating the public and in pursuing arls funding that will enable them to produce controversial theatre. Chapter four, "Geographies of Learning: Theater Studies, Performance, and the ' Performative,'" the pivotal t993 article originally published in Theatre i Ol/rna/ and from which the book takes its title, provides the most substantial REVIEWS and comprehensive arguments concerning the crisis in theatre departments. Dolan's "gentle amendment" (79) to subsuming theatre studies under the rubric of performance is to set up a dialectic between them that "reconfigures both fields" (79). Ultimately, she argues for a kind of visionary theatre practice that can "[surpass] metaphors of performativity" (90), leaving the reader with a challenging list of ways to make theatre that is dangerously experimental . For example, in her action list, Dolan mentions using "the emotion theater inspires to move people to political actions" (90) and producing "theater that rouses people to leave their seats, to respond physically and vocally to the performance " (91). Chapter five traces the emergence of queer theatre over the past twenty years and proposes that enough history has been established to allow for a valuable discourse about the varieties of gay!lesbian/queer representation. Above all, Dolan credits the creation of a theatrical vernacular of queer desire with providing a valuable "counter [to] the political machinery of the Right" (102). Citing the impressive achievements of the WOW Cafe as "a fun and sexy place for radical performance that created a politically activist spirit of adventure" (107), she also admits that the co-opted representations of queer sexuality in Rent and Boys Don't Cry are more problematic. In her final point, however, she tries to reconcile the commodified mainstreaming of queer performance with its more positive side effect of exposing the public to some of the genuine dangers of exhibiting such alternative sexualities as those represented in the above examples...


pdf