Journeys into A Third Space: A study of how theatre enables us to interpret the emergent space between cultures
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When two cultures meet within one national identity, their interaction invites accommodations, contestations and transformations of consciousness. Bhabha (1990) calls this dynamic and evolving interaction 'the third space'. This thesis explores the role of theatre as an agent of understanding that emergent space. I argue that theatre, in a range of forms, not only offers a distinctive tool for analysis but also is a means of strategically changing the society we live in. The study is based on New Zealand experience and focuses on interaction between Maori and Pakeha cultures, that is on the interaction between the indigenous culture and that of the colonial and immigrant settlers. As such it differs from discourses that stress multiculturalism or universal humanism. Three distinct sightings are taken on the role of theatre in this process. The first is an examination of a significant educational arts project, Te Mauri Pakeaka, that took place in the 70s and 80s. The second is a mapping of the history of such theatre as addresses Maori and Pakeha relations. The third is a report of a workshop I conducted with teacher trainees in Panguru, a remote Maori community. Te Mauri Pakeaka involved schools, educational administrators, community, artists and elders in an exploration of Maori culture and of bicultural possibilities, using art making as a catalyst. The history of New Zealand bicultural theatre begins with the epic extravaganzas of the late nineteenth century and explores successive changes in perspective and in participation through the twentieth century. Current issues are examined through interviews with a group of significant contemporary artists. The workshop in Panguru was designed to introduce teachers in training to drama. A significant proportion of its context involved study of the Treaty of Waitangi through drama. Considerations of ritual, social drama and of performative enactment in the public arena emerged as important to all three investigations. The conceptual framework that underpins this study is drawn from scholarship in two discrete fields that I seek to bring together. The first deals with biculturalism in New Zealand, particularly with the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori sovereignty and questions of Maori and Pakeha identity. The second deals with theatre and drama, particularly with performance theory, drama in education, intercultural theatre and postcolonial theory. The study draws on oral and written sources of scholarship and is informed by both Maori and Western approaches to knowledge. It utilises a range of qualitative research methods, including historical reconstruction, unstructured interviews, interpretation of documents, and documentation of reflective practice. The findings that emerge in the study fall into two broad categories: those that relate to an understanding of the emergent space, and those that relate to reconceptualisations of theatre as a result of dual cultural perspectives. These findings have a number of implications. Firstly, they inform our understandings of ownership, appropriation and borrowing, of social and intercultural role, and of value systems, spirituality and pragmatic expediency. Secondly, they point towards new developments in educational policy and practice. Thirdly, they suggest new formulations of aesthetic and semiotic frameworks. Academic research in these fields is limited. What writing there is in New Zealand comes predominantly from Maori, whose challenge to colonialism and to assimilationism has initiated a cross-cultural dialogue. This study is premised on the importance of Pakeha actively entering into that dialogue and offers one such Pakeha voice. Although the study is by design specific to the New Zealand location and does not claim a general applicability to other national contexts, many of the insights that emerge are transferable. Other countries also struggle with issues of cultural identity and with the recognition of indigenous peoples. Australia, for instance, is currently exploring the implications of Aboriginal Reconciliation. Analysis of how one country deals with such issues allows more informed choices for others.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education
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