Call For Papers: Association for Theatre in Higher Education


Association for Theatre in Higher Education
August 1-4, 2013
Orlando, Florida
Conference Theme: P[l]ay: Performance, Pleasure and Pedagogy
Focus Group: Association for Asian Performance

Deadline to Submit Proposals: October 22, 2012
Tentative Session Title:  Arabic Drama: Negotiations

There is almost always a price to pay, if one wishes to play. In this session we will examine what price the Arabic dramatist, contemporary and historical, has found it necessary to pay in order to proceed with the play. We will also consider the source materials from which she draws, or with which she plays, as she assembles the dramatic work.

The modern Arabic dramatist's gaze scans the globe, and falls upon European, American, and Middle (and Far) Eastern texts, films, and performances as well as a deep tradition of Arabic poetry and literature. Indeed, the Arab artist peers through what Margaret Litvin calls the "global kaleidoscope," which presents, at any particular place and time, a unique arrangement of raw materials. Litvin's metaphor cuts through the East/West dichotomy to position the artist as a collector and shaper of ideas and forms not limited by geopolitical divisions. This stance does not attempt to do away with cultural differences, however; indeed, the dramatist enters into negotiation with the cultures involved and will (re)interpret her selected materials within her own particular frame of reference.

The Arabic theatre artist must negotiate, as well, with a government that may not be friendly to her message or means of expression; if critical of the regime, the dramatist must play her hand slyly. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Arabic artist might negotiate the boundaries of a newfound and uncertain freedom, as she celebrates the advances of the season or laments their unevenness. The past and present dramatist may also find it necessary to negotiate with various interpretations of Islam and fundamentalist viewpoints that might look upon the performing arts with disapproval. Or he might choose to disregard such strictures and fly in the face of Islamic heterodoxy, as ibn Daniyal did in his vividly descriptive homoerotic medieval shadow plays.

What price must the current or past Arabic dramatist (or, more broadly defined, performer) pay, in order to play? What negotiations must be made with governing powers, be they the Caliphate, the Sultanate, the (neo-)imperialist, the despot, or a nascent democracy? With religion, including but not limited to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism? In what ways does the dramatist play the past against the present? Counterbalance traditional Arabic performance against Western-style theatre practices? How might she navigate the shifting sociopolitical landscape in the wake of the Arab Spring?

We welcome proposals that address Arabic and Arabic hyphenate (e.g., Arabic-American or Anglo-Arabic) drama within the above parameters, narrowly or broadly construed.

For consideration, submit an abstract not to exceed 200 words, and a brief biography,

Jim Al-Shamma, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theatre
Texas A&M University-Commerce