This paper will examine the complex transnational processes that led to an institutionalization of theatre in emerging nations after 1945. It is linked to a European Research Council project, "Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945," which undertakes a fundamental reexamination of the historiography of theatre against the background of internationally coordinated "development" and "modernization" programs that linked funding organizations, artists, universities, and governments in networks of theatrical expertise. This article outlines the methodological, terminological, and geocultural dimensions of a five-year research initiative. It explains methodological approaches such as actor-network theory, path-dependence, prosopography, and outlines some of the areas to be examined such as philanthropy, East-West rivalry, actor-training in India, and pan-African festivals. It argues that this intense activity was framed by the emergence of a "theatrical epistemic community" with roots in the pre-war period.

Today, the stubborn divide between an affluent Global North and relatively impoverished or "undeveloped" Global South applies not only to indicators of health, education, and income but also to access to cultural and artistic institutions, most noticeably to professional theatre of the kind available in almost all First World countries. Access to theatre is very low on current government agendas if it appears at all; this was not, however, always the case. For three decades, roughly between 1950 and 1980, theatre was seen as a key element not only for cultural development but also even for world peace. During this period there was a massive investment of financial and human resources on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Promoting theatre and building professional theatre institutions became a joint goal of American philanthropy, Eastern Bloc assistance to aligned and nonaligned states, and even government cultural policy in some new nations. Against the background of newly emerging postcolonial states, international theatre organizations were formed, theatre departments at universities were established, hundreds of grants were dispensed, "national" theatres were built, and international arts festivals were [End Page 125] organized to showcase a new generation of artists from emerging countries. By the mid-1980s much of this efflorescence in the Global South had passed: attempts to create permanent ensembles had failed; the theatre buildings hosted mainly folkloric performances, the leading artists had emigrated, and international funding was being channeled into Theatre for Development projects with highly instrumental ends. While this narrative is perforce a simplification of varied processes and myriad differences, its broad thrust is accurate.

This paper will examine the complex transnational processes that led to an institutionalization of theatre in emerging nations on an unprecedented scale. It is linked to a European Research Council project, "Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945," which undertakes a fundamental reexamination of the historiography of theatre against the background of internationally coordinated "development" and "modernization" programs that linked funding organizations, artists, universities, and governments in networks of theatrical expertise.1 Because the work on this project has not yet been carried out, this article will not present results, but rather outline the methodological, terminological, and geocultural dimensions of a five-year research initiative.


The investigation of theatrical institutional mobility in the postcolonial era needs to employ a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. In terms of qualitative methods, it is necessary to combine archival research with discourse analysis. The latter is understood here in the Foucauldian tradition as a form of critical interrogation of discursive formations whose relationship to power structures and agendas must be excavated. Within this research framework, I will focus on a broad array of documentation ranging from academic articles to policy documents, grant applications, publicity material, audiovisual documentation, minutes, and protocols. Wherever possible, oral history will be employed, utilizing structured in-depth interviews with key actors in the expert networks. Where projects extend into the present, participant observation will also be engaged. These approaches require primarily historical and ethnographic research methods rather than performance analysis, although the latter will be applicable in some cases. The project will rely on a variety of methods, including actor-network theory (ANT), which will be harnessed as a means to map the complexities and agency of such expert networks as they came into play in the arena of theatre.2 According to this theory, experts are employed to act within networks organized around projects and policies: the construction of theatre buildings, the establishment of national theatres, or theatre academies. Following the expert networks is both a subject and a method, the method being that by reconstructing the expert networks we can better understand the interrelated (path) dependencies that contributed to the emergence and sedimentation of particular theatrical practices and institutions. Such networks [End Page 126] provide access to the "nuts and bolts" of institution building beyond or underneath the rhetoric of government policy papers, allegiances, dependencies, and money flows that ultimately enable institutions to be instated. Although not particularly renowned for its political orientation, the ethnographic, descriptive methodology can elucidate the complexities and dependencies of expert networks.

As a second method, path dependency theory can be applied as a means to study the long-term institutional consequences of the choice and constitution of these networks, consequences which resonate into the present.3 Related to dependency theory but not coterminous with it, path dependency theory has been utilized within economics, political theory, and historical sociology to explain concepts such as "institutional lock-in" or "critical junctures," which posit the idea that specific historical sequences can be identified in which contingent events set in motion institutional patterns that can have deterministic properties. For example, in the realm of theatre pedagogy the dissemination of theories of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Bertolt Brecht under Cold War conditions created a concept and practice of theatre that has been perpetuated over several decades.

Biographical research is also of vital importance to highlight the agency of particular individuals such as foundation field officers, visiting artists, and former students as representatives of selected expert networks. Biographical research may be framed within forms of historical network analysis, more precisely by means of prosopography. Prosopography concerns itself with investigating the common characteristics of a historical group. Originally developed in historical studies, prosopographical research—with the help of network visualization software today—has become a tool for learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography by collecting and analyzing statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals.4 Through the construction of a prosopographical database of people and institutions studied in the project, the aim is to track interconnections between people. In order to identify network clusters this data will be systematically integrated into a network analysis tool using visualization software such as Gelphi or Social Network Visualizer (SocNetV). This kind of prosopographical research is designed as both a visualization tool and an analytical method to gain insight into trends and shifting priorities of funding bodies, international theatre organizations, and cultural diplomacy.

A central concern of transnational studies in general and global history in particular is how institutions relocate across geocultural space. How have they intersected with their new environments? How have they been adapted, resituated, hybridized, and transformed in processes of motion? If, as the sociologist S. N. Eisenstadt argues, modernization invariably led to a wide range of responses to the way "societies interpret different symbolic premises of modernity and different modern institutional patterns and dynamics,"5 then it is crucial that institutions [End Page 127] be seen in terms of their cultural variability and not as monolithic entities. In our context, theatre needs to be investigated as an institution in the sense of a complex of norms regulating social action; institutions invariably operate on the basis of law and impact on collectivities as much as individuals. The special dynamics of institutional normativity in the arts may be best investigated, for example, through the introduction of pedagogical institutions for artistic training. Whether privately organized or state-run, such institutions display by definition a degree of normativity and discursivity that permits us to examine precisely how local adaptations of mainly Western cultural practices were effected. By the same token, we must ask how Western conceptions of training theatre artists institutionally—mainly actors, singers, and dancers but also directors, designers, and other professions—was seen as a necessary part of cultural "modernization." In this way, theatrical institution building is an example of globalization.

The argument proposed here is that institutionalization processes developed what David Singh Grewal has termed "network power." Grewal argues that as a social and cultural process globalization is dependent on standardization. In areas as diverse as trade, media, legal procedures, industrial control, and perhaps even forms of thought, international standards have emerged that enable us to coordinate our actions on a global scale.6 Grewal claims that the standards that enable such global coordination display what he calls "network power":

The notion of network power consists in the joining of two ideas: first, that coordinating standards are more valuable when greater numbers of people use them, and second, that this dynamic—which I describe as a form of power—can lead to the progressive elimination of the alternatives over which otherwise free choice can effectively be exercised. … More precisely, certain versions of local practices, routines, and symbols are being catapulted onto a global stage and offered as a means by which we can gain access to one another.7

If we apply this observation to theatre then we can find both agreement and disagreement. As already mentioned, the fact that we use a word such as theatre all over the world in various neologisms suggests that standardization has taken place. This does not mean, however, that standardization results in homogenization—for example, that only one form of performance is recognizable under this term. On the contrary, theatre today is remarkable for the degree of diversity that can be sustained within this concept. Historically speaking, however, the export of Western theatre resulted in a certain degree of standardization. To iterate Grewal's terms, "the local practices, routines, and symbols" of Western theatre were "catapulted onto a global stage and offered as a means by which we can gain access to one another." [End Page 128] But how and under what conditions did this process arise? If theatre on the generic level is characterized by diversity, not standardization, where does the latter come into play? I would argue that on an institutional level theatrical globalization is an example of institutions in motion. Drawing on Grewal's concept of standardization and network power, we could ask therefore if a method such as Stanislavsky and Method acting is an example of theatrical standardization. To do this it would be necessary to trace as precisely as possible the paths of informational exchange, the migration of "experts," and the circulation of ideas, traditions, and aesthetic norms that gradually led to the implementation of globally comparable institutions such as theatre schools.

Defining Theatrical Institutions

If we are to examine theatrical institutions in motion we need to define what we mean exactly by institution, a notoriously difficult concept to pin down. Neoinstitutionalist theory distinguishes between the institutional and the organizational. The economist Douglass North famously described institutions as "the rules of the game" in societies and the "constraints that shape human interaction."8 These rules or frameworks are enacted through organizations so there exists continual interdependency between the abstract level of institutional frames and rules and the day-to-day performance of them in and through organizations. While in everyday speech we tend to use the two terms interchangeably, on the level of theory and analysis it is important to distinguish them.

Although we experience theatre through specific organizations, these are largely determined by institutional rules and frameworks, which change over time. For example, the common agreement that theatre as an art form like painting, sculpture, literature, and some forms of cinema is by no means god-given but itself the result of institutionalization processes, the most important of which is public investment in the arts. The touchstone is usually the call for a national theatre or its equivalent for music. This a global debate that begins in the nineteenth century focused on classical music and the visual arts, and which sociologist and neoinstitutional theorist Paul DiMaggio, looking at the United States, has termed the "sacralization of the high culture model." But as he notes, theatre did not lend itself to the transcendent, quasi-religious discourse employed to sacralize classical music or the visual arts: "Of all the art forms to which the high culture models extended, the stage was the most improbable; the most commercially successful; the one least in need, as it was organized during the nineteenth century, of elite patronage."9

The consecration or sacralization processes that DiMaggio analyzes for classical musical and the visual arts do, however, have their pendant in the theatre but it is one that has been less closely examined from an institutional perspective. Before we move on to the historical context it is important to address DiMaggio's own understanding of institution. He notes with a nod to Pierre Bourdieu's theory [End Page 129] of habitus: "an institution can 'only become enacted and active' if it, 'like a garment or a house, finds someone who finds an interest in it.'"10 How and under what conditions can such garments or houses be introduced, even transplanted in the context of theatre?11

The focus of our project will be on the period after World War II, when theatre of the sacralized, high-culture variety was promulgated throughout the world, particularly in the newly decolonizing and decolonized world. It was a process heavily imbricated in Cold War developments and one primarily interested in creating institutions, or more precisely, organizations that would outlive particular individual artists and groups, although the latter were seen as the initial conduits through which the building process could be initiated. If we want to chart how theatrical institutions were reinstituted in postcolonial contexts we must study the intersection of different institutional and organizational networks, which include the following:

  1. 1. International organizations (International Theatre Institute; International Federation for Theatre Research; International Association of Theatre Critics)

  2. 2. Private philanthropic foundations, especially Rockefeller and Ford

  3. 3. Eastern Bloc cultural policy

  4. 4. High-profile festivals as cultural diplomacy

  5. 5. Universities and educational institutions

The emergence of these concrete networks was preceded by an important process of an ideological and organizational nature that I want to term establishing a theatrical epistemic community.

Theatrical Epistemic Communities

Epistemic communities, a term coined by political scientist Peter M. Haas, refers to networks of knowledge-based experts who advise policymakers and governments, usually on questions of scientific and technical complexity.12 They manifest a high degree of international organization in the form of professional associations, conferences, expositions, and learned publications that seldom remain restricted to a single country. For this reason epistemic communities have become a favored object of transnational historiography of the postwar period.13 Although the concept was developed in the context of international relations and most research into epistemic communities has focused on cases requiring a high degree of technical scientific expertise such as nuclear disarmament or environmental issues, the concept can equally be extended to cultural phenomena.14 I propose that the idea of an epistemic community can be adapted to describe how theatre artists, scholars, critics, and [End Page 130] pedagogues organized themselves as such a community with the elements of professionalization, organizational structures, and transnational connectivity that distinguish scientific and technical epistemic communities. I would like to argue that just such an epistemic community constituted itself to promote a practice of theatre within the framework of decolonization that cut across Cold War rivalries. It could also be argued that the same epistemic community ultimately disintegrated, splintering into many different subgroups with little or no international cohesion.

The origins of the postwar theatrical epistemic community lie in the international, multi-sited movement known as theatrical modernism, whose foundational belief is the idea that theatre is an art form and hence of high cultural value and not just a commercial enterprise. It is the ideology in which most of us were educated, and to which we owe our institutional existence. This set of beliefs and shared values provided the ideological basis of the community, albeit by no means in an organized form. Such an epistemic community was from the outset dispersed and international in composition. Its "prehistory," to give some examples, may be located in networks organized around internationally distributed theatrical periodicals such as the Mask (edited by Edward Gordon Craig), the Theatre Arts Monthly, and, perhaps more significantly, in the series of international theatre expositions of the 1920s and 1930s that were held in Amsterdam, London, Vienna, Paris, New York, and Rome, where common artistic values were displayed and discussed.15 The correspondents and contributors to the Mask were extremely diverse and included leading figures from India, Japan, and China, as well as European countries. The community also constituted itself in new international organizations such as the Société Universelle du Théâtre, founded in 1926, or, in the amateur realm, La Comité International pour les Théâtres Populaires and the British Drama League, which by 1950 had branches in dozens of English-speaking countries.

This community leads to permanent institutional forms after 1945: with the founding of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in 1947, the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) in 1956, and the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) in 1957, all of which initially had close ties to one another through affiliation with UNESCO. An important feature of these organizations is that they emphatically sought to bridge the East-West divide. In the postcolonial context the epistemic community appears to split into artistic and developmental camps (Theatre for Development, TfD), with TfD eventually monopolizing most NGO and government funding. The reasons for the "critical junctures" surrounding this split need to be integrated into a wider narrative.

Cold War Rivalry

Cold War rivalry had a decisive influence on the emergence and promulgation of theatrical institutions in postcolonial countries. Its discursive context is developmentalism and the particular connex of theatre and decolonization, against [End Page 131] the backdrop of the rise and elaboration of theories of modernization, economic development, and nation building. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a series of metatheories were proposed and implemented that sought to accelerate the progress of newly decolonized nations. Interventions such as Walt Rostow's The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960), with its famous five stages progressing from traditional societies to "mass consumption," or Paul Rosenstein-Rodan's (1957) notion of the "big push for development" gained dominance through a unique combination of academic research, policy-generating think tanks such as the MIT-based CENIS (Center for International Studies), and proximity to political power.16 The aim was to formulate a powerful alternative to Communist ideas and support that had considerable traction with nonaligned nations. Recent research has shown that from the US side a complex network of state agencies, semigovernment think tanks, private foundations, and universities worked together to form what are termed here "expert networks" to implement modernization and developmental policies in the so-called "Third World," or "emerging" and/or "nonaligned" nations.17

Debates over the pros and cons of development aid continue until this day, and, in fact, have reentered public discourse with the publication of bestsellers that have refocused previous and future strategies. The well-publicized disputes between Jeffrey D. Sachs (The End of Poverty, 2005) and William Easterly (The Tyranny of Experts, 2013), flanked by developmental economists such as Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion, 2007) and Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid, 2009), have coalesced into sustained critiques of development aid. These differ mainly in the solutions rather than in the analysis of the underlying problems attending the influx of funds from a mainly affluent North to a predominantly impoverished South via local, often autocratic if not downright corrupt governments.18 Not only has the development economist emerged from the back offices of economics departments to global prominence as a new breed with increasing access to the ears of the powerful, but the whole question of "development" has regained center stage in globalization debates.

Viewing theatre as part of modernization and developmentalist thinking and policy requires a significant shift in focus away from individual playwrights or directors, who have stood in the center of most research into postcolonial theatre. If theatre is understood as a form of cultural infrastructure, then it is logical that it was included in the social-engineering projects of international development and modernization. So how did institutional transplantation take place? How was it organized?

Theatre Experts for the Third World: ITI and the Globalization of Theatre

In November 2014 the International Theatre Institute (ITI) announced that it was relocating its headquarters from Paris to Shanghai. Shanghai's expectations were made clear by the city's vice-mayor: "Shanghai expects ITI to be an [End Page 132] international player that brings performing arts professionals, artist, productions, scholars, experts and members of ITI to the city of Shanghai."19 This move, supported by generous financial assistance from the city of Shanghai, represents a shift in geocultural power. Once a recipient of ITI's expertise, China, or the city of Shanghai, was now bankrolling an organization starved of cash but still replete with symbolic capital. The founding document of the ITI, which was established in 1947 under the auspices of UNESCO, is contained in a "report on the theatre experts meeting." The experts included some of the leading lights of theatrical practice, such as Jean Louis Barrault, Tyrone Guthrie, and J.B. Priestley, while including representatives from the USA, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. ITI's declared aim in 1947 was to "promote international understanding between peoples and nations, thanks to the fresh awareness of the importance of international activities in theatre arts," a mission statement that managed to incorporate the buzzword international twice in one sentence.20

Structured around "national centres," by the late 1950s, ITI had bridged the East-West divide and begun to include developing countries in its activities, helping with the establishment of centers and above all encouraging "mobility." Under its special section for "Third World" theatre, ITI provided regular support for artists in emerging countries in a series of colloquia, high-profile international festivals, and encouragement of individual artists. A scenographic, technological, and architectural subgroup, OISTAT (International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians) was established in Prague in 1968. It relocated to Taiwan in 2010, perhaps establishing the precedent for the Shanghai takeover. While the broad lineaments of this activity in the US are known, there has been little research into the ideological imperatives at work in the activities of ITI in emerging countries, especially through the financial backers of such undertakings, and the various public-private partnerships that were established.21 There is a need to investigate how ITI coordinated the movement of theatrical expertise with a particular focus on the 1960s when emerging countries were establishing their professional theatre structures. It is necessary to ask how the idea of the theatrical epistemic community affected or perhaps neutralized the ideological divisions virulent in this period.

Philanthropy and Theatrical Development

Private philanthropy provided a second line of institutional transplantation. In the 1950s and 1960s, private American foundations, especially Rockefeller and Ford, expended considerable sums of money and provided expertise and advice in the area of theatre to developing countries.22 In this period, high culture, especially theatre, was on the agenda of international development thinking. The Rockefeller Foundation alone was involved in funding theatrical activity in sixteen "developing" countries and provided assistance ranging from study trips for individuals to [End Page 133] large-scale institutional funding (especially in Nigeria and Chile). Preliminary research based on the analysis of the annual reports of the Rockefeller Foundation reveals patterns of assistance that extend throughout the developing world, but with a particular emphasis in West Africa, with Nigeria being the second-largest recipient of theatre-related funding after the United States itself. Recent biographical research into the dramatists and Nobel laureates Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott has provided some indication of the depth and complexity of the Rockefeller Foundation's importance in not only supporting but actively building a professional theatre scene in the Caribbean and Nigeria, which went beyond mere travel grants for "promising" young writers.23 In 1959 Wole Soyinka received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to conduct "a survey of African drama in Nigeria." In 1962 Rockefeller awarded the University of Ibadan a huge grant of $200,000 (roughly $1.5 million in today's purchasing power) for the "development of the drama program." Between 1957 and 1967 Rockefeller also funded Derek Walcott's Trinidad Theatre Company, providing the major source of subsidy for the company, funding that was not forthcoming from the Trinidad and Tobago government.24 It also gave money to a dozen other theatre projects in recently decolonized nations. This meant that a private US charity with strong government ties was effectively funding the teaching, research, and artistic practice of theatre in newly independent former British colonies. Preliminary research indicates that apart from Nigeria, Chile and the Middle East are productive sites for reconstructing the technopolitics of Cold War theatre funding. For India, the Ford Foundation's field office attained considerable influence on Indian development policy, including the fine arts—its involvement in theatrical activity, however, remains underresearched.25

The involvement of US philanthropy in theatre in emerging countries continues into the present. Today, the Ford Foundation has identified "media, arts and culture" as one of its top funding priorities in Africa and the Middle East. A large amount of this funding is now going into the performing arts, such as the Young Arab Theatre Fund. In 2005 and 2006 the media, arts and culture budget of the Cairo office amounted to $6,168,000, the highest amount given to any category. In East Africa it granted $5,302,000, roughly the same amount it spent on "education and sexuality." The MacArthur Foundation continues to support the performing arts in Nigeria.26

What role do individuals play in all this institutional mobility? A crucial role is played by the expert, or, in the collectivized version, expert networks. The latter can be defined as interrelated groups of skilled professionals, usually with academic training, who are recruited to provide advice, training, and often managerial leadership in the implementation of a specific project. In the Cold War period, such networks consisted of a complex interplay of private foundations, government bodies (sometimes operating covertly), universities, and individual artists and intellectuals. [End Page 134]

In his book Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (2002), Middle Eastern historian Timothy Mitchell has proposed the notion of "techno-politics" to investigate the interplay between various actors and areas of expertise at work in colonial and postcolonial nation building. Technopolitics refers to the complex interdependence between political imperatives and the seemingly selfless goals of bringing expertise in modern engineering, technology, and social science to help developing countries. The concept hinges on a critical interrogation of the very concept of expertise and its often unquestioned structures of authority. Working with such a concept will enable the project to ask what long-term effects were generated on the performance and theatre cultures of postcolonial societies. By linking artistic and cultural activities with concepts associated with technology, engineering, and politics, they can be regarded not as antonymical to them (in the sense of a nonrational sphere of intuition, creativity, etc.) but rather investigated as extensions of the modernization project and its imbrication in post- and neocolonialism. Therefore we need to ask, following Mitchell, "what strategies, structures, and silences transform the expert into a spokesperson for what appear as the forces of development, the rules of law, the progress of modernity, or the rationality of capitalism?"27 Most importantly, we might extend these questions to the sphere of cultural development, specifically theatre, with important implications for questions of cultural sustainability.

However, the theatre expert involved in the technopolitics of institution building is by no means an invention of the Cold War. During the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, the French theatre director André Antoine was invited to Istanbul to advise on the establishment of an acting conservatory along French lines. Arriving in 1914 with less than impeccable timing, his sojourn was cut short by the outbreak of World War I.28 Despite the failure of this enterprise, the new republic under Attaturk continued the policy within its overall modernization program. In order to modernize its music and theatre culture, Turkey invited card-carrying German modernists to advise on institution building, including the composer Paul Hindemith, and more significantly, the opera director Carl Ebert, who in the course of significant amounts of time over a ten-year period between 1936 and 1947 founded the opera and drama school of the Ankara Conservatory.29

Mixed Pedagogies: Training Postcolonial Theatre Artists in the Cold War

Within the wider field of postcolonial theatre the influence of Eastern Bloc countries remains remarkably underresearched. This is surprising given the extent of Soviet political, economic, and cultural involvement in Asia and the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. Although India, for example, remained resolutely "nonaligned," there is no doubt that Soviet and Eastern European engagement in cultural and theatrical activities in India was considerable.30 It included assistance in building acting training programs, as well as providing advice in the newest [End Page 135] techniques of Brechtian directing and dramaturgy. Projects to "develop" theatrical institutions in a Cold War context were vigorously promoted on several levels. Little is known about such cultural policy initiatives, although "theatre" in both countries was a major field of expertise: the Soviet Union provided competence in actor training, while the German Democratic Republic (GDR) provided Brechtian expertise through members of the Berliner Ensemble or directors such as Fritz Bennewitz who went abroad as "Brecht experts."31 Each sought to draw into its orbit nations of the postcolonial world, themselves anxious to develop so as to overcome the legacies of colonialism and enhance their national autonomy and power. In the early 1950s the Soviet Union sent acting "experts" to China to assist in establishing an acting school on Stanislavskian principles at the newly established Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and in Shanghai. A key figure was the acting teacher and "expert" Boris Kulnev, who conducted extensive workshops with Chinese actors and directed "model" productions.32

In Egypt in 2013 during the deliberations of the Shura Council, the sole legislative body active after Mubarak's downfall, Salafist members called for a ban on ballet in Egypt, claiming that it celebrated the "art of nudity" and "spread immorality and obscenity to the people."33 The call was directed specifically at the Cairo Opera Ballet Company, a resident company in the Cairo Opera House, which is still the only full-time classical ballet company in the Middle East and also one of the lesser known internationally, yet its history demonstrates forcefully the dynamics of expert networks and their ideological affiliations. The company was developed during the 1960s under the tutelage of members of the Bolshoi: a ballet academy was founded in Cairo at the request of the Egyptian minister of cultural affairs, and young Egyptian dancers were sent to the Bolshoi for study. In an unusual confluence of tanks and tutus, the company was established in the wake of Soviet military aid to Egypt. Public performances began in 1966 and the close collaboration continued until 1973, when Anwar Sadat expelled all Soviet advisors from Egypt under his new Western-oriented policy, including the ballet masters from Moscow.34

These are just a few examples of a much wider sphere of theatrical and pedagogical activity. It is necessary to study how training in theatrical activity was conceptualized and delivered in the postcolonial world. On the one hand this was done by actually creating acting schools and academies, on the other by sending budding performers for training in metropolitan "centers of excellence." India cultivated close ties with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries as well as maintaining its traditional cultural and linguistic connections with Britain and United States. Its institution building was characterized by a dual focus: first, the National Drama School was founded in the late 1950s on the conservatory model, which remains to this day a prestigious cultural institution. Second, selected theatre artists were sent to Eastern Europe to train, in particular to Ernst Busch Academy [End Page 136] in East Berlin and the Moscow State Institute of Theatrical Arts. Both institutions hosted a large number of talented young artists from all over the postcolonial world.

Festival Networks and Pan-African Performance Culture

In addition to the building of new institutions, the 1960s and 1970s were also marked by a succession of high-profile festivals that provided showcases for artists and companies from emerging countries. Beginning in the 1950s with the programmatically international Théâtre des Nations in Paris (under the auspices of UNESCO and ITI), there followed a succession of international theatre and arts festivals such as the Commonwealth Arts festivals, the World Theatre Season—an annual season of international theatre companies at the Aldwych Theatre in London between 1964 and 1975—and the theatrical representation at various expositions and even at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, featuring, among others, the Trinidad Theatre Workshop's legendary production of Derek Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain.35 The interlinked pan-African arts festivals that took place in the 1960s and 1970s provide particularly fruitful examples of institution building through festivalization. They include the World Festival of Negro Arts held in Dakar in 1966, the first Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers in 1969, and the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (known as FESTAC), hosted in Lagos in 1977. Often referred to as the "African Olympiads," these festivals provided arguably the most important international showcase for the performing arts on the African continent and beyond in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in francophone Africa.36 Because of their global reach and multifaceted organizational structure, they can provide an insight into postcolonial cultural networks involving both statist cultural diplomacy and oppositional investment by the writers and artists associated with pan-Africanist movements including the United States and the Caribbean.

The following research questions will be addressed:

  1. 1. To what extent did these festivals build and represent "network power" (Grewal) of a kind we associate today with globalization?

  2. 2. What is the relationship between the evenemential nature of festivals and long-term institutional sustainability of the performing arts in West Africa where two of the festivals took place?

  3. 3. How did such pan-African events expand and challenge the theatrical epistemic community through new cultural forms and generic understandings, like the problematic nature of "dramatic" or "spoken" theatre devoid of music and dance? [End Page 137]

  4. 4. Since festivals almost always require elaborate structures of funding linking public funds, philanthropy and private donors, and these in turn had implications for the artists selected for involvement, what effect did the complex economic and ideological involvement of both statist and nonstatist actors have?

The recent opening of the Archive des festivals panafricains, held at the Centre Edgar-Morin in Paris, provides for the first time easily accessible multilayered archival holdings of these festivals.37


The material I have outlined is as much prospectus as it is about verifiable results. This is because the question of institutional mobility has not featured prominently on research agendas in theatre and performance studies. I have argued here for a focus on an institutional perspective because institutions form the very basis of democratic societies. This was certainly a guiding idea behind the various initiatives mentioned here. It is also the common ground linking advocates of theatre on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Although they might have disagreed on the institutional form democracy requires, especially in the German Democratic Republic, they agreed on the beneficial effects of theatre and that it was required in new nations seeking to join the new international community of nations. In the Eastern Bloc countries there was no debate that the state had a responsibility to fund theatre—and it did. Looking back at all this activity from the twenty-first century, especially from the vantage point of current cultural policies and considerations of cultural value, this period seems strangely idealistic. When theatre is regarded as just one component of the cultural and creative industries, then the ideas and initiatives described here seem almost quaint and give rise to a nostalgia for a period long since past.

Christopher Balme

Christopher Balme currently holds the chair in Theatre Studies at the University of Munich. Born and educated in New Zealand, he has lived and worked in Germany since 1985. From 2004 to 2006 he held the chair in Theatre Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He has published widely on German theatre, intercultural theatre and theatre and other media. He is past-president of the IFTR and was Senior Editor of Theatre Research International. He currently edits the journal, Forum Modernes Theater. Recent publications include Pacific Performances: Theatricality and Cross-Cultural Encounter in the South Seas (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies (Cambridge 2008) and The Theatrical Public Sphere (Cambridge 2014). His current research interests focus on the legacy of modernism in the globalization of the arts; theatre and the public sphere; and the relationship between media and performance. He is director of the Global Theatre Histories project (


1. See the website: Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945 <> (accessed 21 February 2017).

2. Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005). For recent applications of ANT to theatre history see Marlis Schweitzer, Transatlantic Broadway: The Infrastructural Politics of Global Performance (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); and Christopher Balme, "The Bandmann Circuit: Theatrical Networks in the First Age of Globalization," Theatre Research International 40.1 (2015): 19–36.

3. See James Mahoney, "Path Dependence in Historical Sociology," Theory and Society 29.4 (2000): 507–48.

4. For a contemporary example of prosopographical research, see the interactive website The Inner Life of Empires <>, hosted by [End Page 138] Harvard University. The project is based on the book of the same title by Emma Rothschild, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2011).

5. S. N. Eisenstadt, Patterns of Modernity, vol. 1 (London: F. Pinter, 1987) 5.

6. David Singh Grewal, Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2008) 3.

7. 4.

8. Douglass North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990) 3.

9. Paul DiMaggio, "Cultural Boundaries and Structural Change: The Extension of the High Culture Model to Theater, Opera, and the Dance, 1900–1940," in Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality, ed. Michèle Lamont and Marcel Fournier (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1992) 23.

10. Paul DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, introduction, The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, ed. Paul DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991) 26. Pierre Bourdieu, "Men and Machines," in Advances in Social Theory and Methodology, ed. K. Knorr-Cetina and A. Cicourel, 304-318. (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), 309.

11. The globalization of theatre in terms of market penetration and cultural mobility began in earnest in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued unabated until World War I and its aftermath, when the touring model became increasingly uneconomical and challenged by the rise of cinema, particularly in the hitherto lucrative Asian markets. I have written elsewhere on the so-called first phase of globalization in relation to the career of the Anglo-American impresario Maurice E. Bandmann, which I see as a kind of curtain-raiser to the processes I will be discussing here. See Balme, "Bandmann Circuit" 19–36. I follow the argument put forward by historians such as Jürgen Osterhammel that sees globalization as an interrupted process that begins in the nineteenth century and that regains momentum in fits and starts after World War II. Then we need to ask where theatre fits into this grand narrative. See Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Patrick Camiller (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2014).

12. Peter M. Haas, "Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination," International Organization 46.1 (1992): 1–35.

13. See, for example, Patricia Clavin, "Defining Transnationalism," Contemporary European History 14.4 (2005): 421–39; and Emily S. Rosenberg, "Transnational Currents in a Shrinking World," A World Connecting: 1870–1945, ed. Emily S. Rosenberg (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2012) 815–989.

14. Mai'a K. Davis Cross, "Rethinking Epistemic Communities Twenty Years Later," Review of International Studies 39.1 (2013): 137–60.

15. It is perhaps significant that in his lecture on the opening of the London International Theatre Exhibition, Craig redefined international in terms of the "national," in the sense of a call for a national theatre in England. Gordon Craig, "Exhibition Lecture. The National Theatre," The Stage 8 June 1922: 11.

16. Walt W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1960); P. N. Rosenstein-Rodan, Notes on the Theory of the "Big Push" (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies, 1957).

17. See, for example, Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2003); and David C. Engerman et al., eds., Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2003).

18. Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (London: Allen Lane, 2005); Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done about It (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007); Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is Another Way for Africa (London: Allen Lane, 2009); William Easterly, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor (New York: Basic Books, 2014).

19. "ITI Headquarters being relocated to Shanghai", The Independent (Dhaka) 14 November 2014 (accessed online 13 March 2015).

20. "A report on the theatre experts' meeting." (1947) ITI Archive Paris. See also <>.

21. See Charlotte M. Canning's book On the Performance Front: US Theatre and Internationalism (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) for a thorough discussion of ITI from a US perspective.

22. See Inderjeet Parmar, Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power (New York: Columbia UP, 2012).

23. On Soyinka, see Bernd Lindfors, Early Soyinka (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008). For Walcott, see Bruce King, Derek Walcott and West Indian Drama: Not Only a Playwright but a [End Page 139] Company, the Trinidad Theatre Workshop 1959–1993 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). Both studies make extensive use of the Rockefeller archives.

24. See Balme, "Failed Stages: Postcolonial Public Spheres and the Search for a Caribbean Theatre," The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism, ed. Erika Fischer-Lichte et al. (London: Routledge, 2014) 239–57.

25. See Nicole Sackley, "Foundation in the Field: The Ford Foundation New Delhi Office and the Construction of Development Knowledge, 1951–1970," American Foundations and the Coproduction of World Order in the Twentieth Century, ed. John Krige and Helke Rausch (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) 232–60. On support for the arts in India, see Christine Ithurbide, "Shaping a Contemporary Art Scene: The Development of Artistic Circulation, Networks, and Cultural Policies between India and the U.S. since the 1950s" (Rockefeller Archive Center 2013) <>.

26. See, for example, the Ford Foundation's 2012 annual report, which emphasizes the importance of the arts: Ford Foundation, Results that Change Lives (New York: Ford Foundation, 2012) <> (accessed 16 March 2017).

27. Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley: U of California P, 2002) 15.

28. Antoine describes his experience in a short memoir, Chez les turcs: Précédé d'un avant-propos de Metin And et suivi de documents réunis et publiés, ed. Metin And (Ankara: Forum Yayınları, 1965).

29. See the biography of Ebert by his son, Peter Ebert, In This Theatre of Man's Life: The Biography of Carl Ebert (Lewes, UK: Sussex Book Guild, 1999).

30. For a discussion of Soviet cultural policy in India see Jeremiah Wishon, "Soviet Globalization: Indo-Soviet Public Diplomacy and Cold War Cultural Spheres," Global Studies Journal 5.2 (2013): 103–14.

31. For an assessment for Fritz Bennewitz, see Joerg Esleben with Rolf Rohmer and David G. John, Fritz Bennewitz in India: Intercultural Theatre with Brecht and Shakespeare (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2016).

32. For a detailed discussion of Boris Kulynev's teaching of the Stanislavsky system in China in the 1950s, see Jingzhi Fang, "Durch Austausch entsteht Identität: der Einfluss des Stanislawski-Systems auf die realistischen Inszenierungen am Volkskunsttheater Beijing der 1950–60er Jahre," diss., Ludwig Maximilians U of Munich <> (accessed 15 March 2017). See also Jonathan Pitches and Ruru Li, "Stanislavsky with Chinese Characteristics: How the System was Introduced into China," Stanislavsky in the World: The System and Its Transformations Across Continents, ed. Jonathan Pitches and Stefan Aquilina (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017).

33. "Salafis Demand End to Women's Rights Body, Ballet," Egypt Independent (Cairo), 29 May 2013 <> (accessed 21 Feb 2017).

34. For a brief overview of this history, see Mona Abouissa, "Ballet in Egypt Enjoying an Unexpected Resurgence," The National, 2 February 2013 <> (accessed 21 February 2017).

35. See King.

36. See Cédric Vincent, "A Call to History", in Contemporary And 19 October 2014 <>.

37. On the Archive des festivals panafricains, see A. Paouri, "080 – L'archive des festivals panafricains," Institut Interdisciplinaire d'anthropologie du contemporain 20 December 2015 <> (accessed 30 April 2017). [End Page 140]

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