- From the Editor
Scholars of contemporary Western arts often spend their research hours in archives created by others. Work in the current Western humanities involves considerable theorization about the meaning of "the archive" and analysis of the motives under which archives were assembled. In contrast I see many of the authors in this volume (as is often the case in Asian theatre research) creating archives. Figurative or literally, the work is capturing the data and details we did not know. Examples are Jay Keister's breakdown of the dance of the kabuki hero Sukeroku and field reports (Shiva Massoudi on Iranian stringed puppetry, Sir Anril Tiatco's on komedya performed at the University of the Philippines, and Madan Sarma and Parasmoni Dutta on bhaona in festival context in Assam).
Does this digging up the data that we often see in these pages make our Asian theatre as a field less theoretically sophisticated than Euro-American theatre analysis? Is this detail-oriented issue less important than issues with more articles making multiple theoretical leaps?
My personal hunch is that many of the theoretical slants being used by current academic writers are passing—that is, vagaries that concern the important (but often culture- and class-specific) battles being fought in the lives we lead in our academic contexts (often Western ones).
I feel our work in Asian genres forces each of us into modes that may shake up any currently popular theoretical stances. We are always working in a cross-cultural context. This forces us authors, editors, and readers into dialogues that are not about globalization (which, however popular in titles, I see as a Western model derived from economic factors and translated into sociocultural terms), but deeper encounters across divides caused by genuine differences in deep structure of cultural formation.
While this issue is less theoretical than some, this detail work is important. One size or theory will never fit all. I notice, for example, that the number of Asian authors goes up and more raw data pours [End Page iii] into our pages when we publish reports. Does this mean the valuation of theory is a Western academic bias?
This data potentially gives us tools to examine the premises that I (immersed in an academic life in an American university) may not truly see. These individuals who are creating archives and reports and stepping inside the dances of kabuki are giving us data that test the premises of our currently canonized theories of performance. May not the debates that rage in current academia and privileging of theory be themselves a legacy of our Western tradition of learning, born of Christian theologians debating ethereal worlds that religion dictated as more important than material ones? Is our demand for theory in articles itself born of an intellectual predisposition that comes out of the Western university's clerical origins? And even if theory is what academics are in pursuit of, do the theories developed in Western academic circles always fit the practices in Asian context?
As the discovery of Sanskrit and other "Oriental" traditions of scholarship was, for continental Europeans of the eighteenth century, a profound awakening to other modes of thinking, I think the information we are gathering on how theatre operates in society and how genres move cross-culturally allows us to rethink performance and its function in a society in fundamental ways. So, as you read this issue, enjoy the details, but for those who are theoretically predisposed, use this data to rethink paradigms and see if our repeated monikers (race, class, gender) fit this work, or cause us to rethink and reformulate our ideas. [End Page iv]