Refugee performance: Encounters with alterity
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In 2006 there were 9.9 million refugees worldwide, as defined by the United Nations 1951 Convention, and 32.9 million persons of concern. In a comprehensive review of settlement programmes in Australia, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) concluded that there was an urgent need for targeted settlement assistance towards this group if they are to achieve full and active participation in society and further research should be undertaken to track the progress of humanitarian entrants in the future. The emotional, psychological and experiential impact of war and displacement on refugees has significant and long-lasting implications for both the individuals involved and the broader communities in which they live. Performers, theatre activists and human rights workers have for some time been interested in working with refugees. However, the category of refugee performance can be seen to create an essentialist frame from which the extrication of practice is almost impossible. The article will explore the performing of refugee representation through an examination of two examples of practice, one a small-scale theatre project in Queensland, Australia the other a multifaceted arts project in the United Kingdom involving theatre, community photography and a combustible 25-metre sculpture. In the article, I will argue that the effort to construct a discourse about refugee performance is enmeshed in an unwavering paradox. Put simply, how may practice deal with refugee stories when the stories themselves (bureaucratic performance, personal stories as victimhood, suffering as spectacle) make an encounter with alterity more elusive?
Journal of Arts and Communities
© 2012 Intellect Ltd . This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies