Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture

Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture

Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture

Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture


In this passionate and controversial work, director and critic Rustom Bharucha presents the first major critique of intercultural theatre from a 'Third World' perspective.Bharucha questions the assumptions underlying the theatrical visions of some of the twentieth century's most prominent theatre practitioners and theorists, including Antonin Artaud, Jerzsy Grotowski, and Peter Brook. He contends that Indian theatre has been grossly mythologised and taken out of context by Western directors and critics. And he presents a detailed dramaturgical analysis of what he describes as an intra cultural theatre project, providing an alternative vision of the possibilities of true cultural pluralism. Theatre and the World bravely challenges much of today's 'multicultural' theatre movement. It will be vital reading for anyone interested in the creation or discussion of a truly non-Eurocentric world theatre.


History has intervened decisively since the writing of these essays on interculturalism in the theatre between 1981 and 1989. But with critical hindsight, one could also say that the more things change, the more they seem to remain exactly (or more or less) where they were. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

In this context, it is worth pointing out that my critique of 'cultural colonialism', 'ethnocentricity' and the indifference to the ethics of representation in intercultural transactions seems more valid to me now in the aftermath of the Cold War than earlier when I wrote these essays in a spirit of liberal dissent. 'Globalization' has become a major force in India today, particularly in the context of the new economic policies instituted by the Indian government on the 'recommendations' of the World Bank and the IMF. The widespread intervention of the cable networks is merely part of this 'globalization', affirming an increasingly homogenized image of 'the world' that has yet to receive an adequate critical discourse in India.

In contrast, my focus on theatre rather than the media in this book might seem to be almost marginal in relation to the violence being inflicted in the name of a 'new world order'. But within the limited context of my theatrical journey in different cultures, I do point out the levels of appropriation that are at work in the seemingly altruistic process of intercultural exchange: appropriations that are not just imposed but negotiated with increasingly covert simplicities between and within systems of power.

If there has been a time-lag in the publication of my book, this has to be related to the larger production of critical discourse in the West. Like the phenomenon of interculturalism itself, the discourse on the subject has been overwhelmingly dominated (if not monopolized) by western theorists and practitioners. My book in its own way is an attempt not to provide a more 'balanced' view on the subject, but simply another view, another voice responsive to the particular contradictions of a post-colonial history in which interculturalism is not an issue but a burning reality.

Indeed, I am at once amused and pained by the neutralization of 'reality' in much recent intercultural theory, which I address in an Afterword specially

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