- Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer ed. by Alyson Campbell and Stephen Farrier
In 19 essays, Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer collects a body of work “linked by the conviction that performance, and its analysis, is one of the most productive ways of looking at the relationship between sexual subjectivities and the hybrid spaces and cultures they occupy — whether through the frame of a venue, a local community, region, nation-state or a diasporic or transnational approach” (2). Taking critical interest in notions of place along the lines of globalization, transnationalism, diaspora, post/neocolonialism, and translocality, the essays together question “what it is to make or see queer performance where they are: in their locality” (5). As such, the editors have sought out a diversity of international perspectives on these topics, and in doing so have collected a range of approaches to dramaturgical thinking about queer performance around the world.
In their introduction to the volume, editors Alyson Campbell and Stephen Farrier write: “our point is that the theory does not attend to localness or the granular distinctions that in places might seem slight but are fundamental to (queer) performances” (18). Here, Queer Dramaturgies offers a welcome intervention in queer scholarship at large, which has long been [End Page 172] criticized for its lack of attention to the lived social realities and identities of actual human beings. Instead, the editors stress that performance is itself a located encounter between real bodies in relationship. A queer dramaturgy, then, is not only concerned with theatrical aesthetics, but is also “intimately bound up with the identity of the maker/s (self-identifying as queer), the making processes and the context in which they are seen” (13). In addition to this conception of queer dramaturgy, several of these essays foreground cabaret and nightclub performance, film, and performance art — work that is queer in the sense of having been “hived off from literary traditions in theatre” and relegated to lowbrow, popular, or underground venues (6).
Queer Dramaturgies is broken into three parts, each with its own introduction by Campbell and Farrier, who have also contributed essays to the volume. Part I, “Queer Notions of Nation,” collects seven essays that focus on the nation-state and/or geographic location as their primary conception of place. Discussions such as these are timely against a backdrop of neoliberalism, (neo)colonialism, and the phenomenon of global gayness — “standard Western rights-based narratives of how those who claim a queer position might live in society” (27). The volume benefits greatly from these descriptions of how queerness — as an idea with the capacity to travel and colonize — is often resisted through unique performances in specific places. Queer interventions contend with local realities and histories, while also negotiating with notions of queerness that circulate globally.
Part II, “Queer Returns: Locating Queer Temporalities,” is the section in most direct conversation with the work of a single scholar — in this case, the queer theorist Elizabeth Freeman, whose Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories is cited frequently. Freeman’s concept of erotohistoriography, which “sees the body as method, and historical consciousness as something intimately involved with corporeal sensations” allows several of this section’s contributors to regard the body in performance as a site of encounter between past and present (Freeman 2010:96). In several of the dramaturgical analyses collected here, such as Sarah Mullan’s essay on reimagining lesbian history in performance, Freeman’s theories are activated to describe the ways in which, through performance, the past can be given presence in time and space. Also noteworthy in this section is João Florêncio’s essay on Derek Jarman’s film, Blue (1993). In it, Florêncio adeptly considers the ways in which Jarman’s film performatively represents “AIDS as a reality that is both translocal and always already embodied” (179). The essays collected here will also appeal to those who research queer histories, queer inheritance and heritability, and queer theories of historiography...