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  • Editorial Comment:The Global South?
  • E.J. Westlake

Originally, I had envisioned that this issue would take up the concept of the Global South, to showcase a sample of current scholarship centered on theatre and performance in the Global South, but also to interrogate the term and its widespread use. I was thrilled to have a few very fine submissions to consider, including the four excellent essays that made their way through the peer-review process and are included here. I consider myself lucky that both established and emerging scholars labored to make their work available to us. I thought it was interesting that we ended up with four authors that all anchor their work in Africa, but I was excited by the prospect that they all addressed the use of the "Global South" as a point of reference.

What I did not consider (or did not consider well, or did not give near enough thought to) was the fact that all four essays chosen to appear in a special issue on "The Global South" are by white scholars based in institutions in the United States. As the issue entered production, Laura Edmondson, whose essay begins this issue, gently brought this to my attention. She and Kellen Hoxworth graciously agreed to help me think through the implications of a Global South issue with such lack of representation from Global South–based scholars. This expression of concern led to a helpful and generative exchange with Laura, Kellen, and the leadership of ASTR's Performance in/from the Global South Working Group.1 They shared their uneasiness with how Africa was serving as the lone representative of the Global South. They called attention to their thriving community of scholars "who work in our rapidly expanding field and who have consistently and brilliantly redefined the terrain of the Global South as much more than simply 'the non-Western,'" to quote from our email exchange. I am grateful for these conversations, which have helped to shape and inform my framing of this issue.

On the one hand, editors have limited control over submissions. We send out calls, we approach people at conferences, we network with colleagues, and we rely upon referrals. We get the essays we get (and the submissions to Theatre Journal have dropped off dramatically with the proliferation of academic journals), and we hope we have enough essays to make a full issue. We hope we can find reviewers. We hope the authors have time to rework material after we ask for revisions. Several essays we hoped to include in special issues are held up by one or more of these factors and are included in later general issues. But the real problem is much deeper and more systemic.

In 2006, a conversation about globalization and the lack of voices from outside the United States appeared in the "Editor's Forum" in Theatre Survey. Scholars from the University of California system published a letter reporting on the findings from a "research group on international performance and culture dedicated to developing a [End Page vii] variety of scholarly approaches to global performance."2 They examined three journal issues published over the previous year on transnational performance, and noted that "[a]ll but one scholar writing in the three journals are located in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom." Particularly relevant to the problem of this issue of Theatre Journal was the question this group of scholars posed regarding this power differential in creating a lopsided flow of discourse:

By what means can we disrupt the asymmetrical flow of scholarly discourse where writers located in those places have not only disproportionate access to publication venues but also disproportionate influence in determining the topics, questions, and theories that are deemed "relevant" and "excellent" in the peer-review process that leads to publication?

It is striking that we are still asking these questions, and I am left wondering if we have gained any ground in addressing them. The research group suggested that "the 'other' is among us," in that we cannot collapse this discussion into tidy binaries, both because so many scholars migrate and work within different global contexts, but also because of our...


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