Re-/Un-working Tragedy: Perspectives from the Global South

6 December 2019 - 7 December 2019

SG1/2, CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Further details about this conference will be made available in the near future. 

Please email conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk if you would like to be kept informed about the event, or have any other questions. 

 

Lead Convenor

Ekin Bodur (University of Cambridge)

Co-Convenor

Clare L.E. Foster and the Re- Interdisciplinary Network

 

Summary

Building on ideas explored in the Re- Interdisciplinary Network's CRASSH events, the conference aims to examine ideas of repetition within canonical traditions of tragedy from the perspective of the Global South, in the process raising questions about the problems of those categories as they are changing. We want to scrutinize the literary, political, and philosophical relevance of re-/un-working tragedy in cross-cultural contexts. Taking up the concept of ‘tragedy’ in a world shaken by global conflicts, deterritorialization, and migration crises, the conference asks:

  • How do people in various zones of crisis embrace, interpret and adapt canonical traditions of tragedy to make sense of their suffering and express their resistance?
  • How do authors, playwrights, performers, philosophers, and critics respond to the questions raised by the reworking of tragedies?
  • How does the reworking of tragedies in the Global South transform the idea of the canon and/or decolonise the literary curricula? 

We often employ the prefix ‘re-’, as in ‘re-working’, ‘re-writing’, ‘re-thinking’, ‘re-imagining’, ‘re-appropriating’, ‘re-presenting’ as if to situate the modern work in a historical line, or dialectical movement, of repetitions. The creation of the new cannot but come with reference to the prior. But how does recognisable repetition operate as a unique kind of site for invention, and for speech? Besides, how might we rethink the tragic canon as a destabilizing gesture – an un-working, rather than re-working - through perspectives from the Global South? In reference to ‘unworking’, or désoevrement as a concept that interrupts, suspends, and counteracts the work in the moment of its unfolding, the conference will look for ways to put the authoritative position of the ‘original work’ at stake. Unworking this notion of ‘the original’ reveals the work of tragedy as that which opens itself to reinvention and becomes self-consciously meaningful in the moment of its re-presentation.

The conference will bring together artists and authors who adapt classical tragedies together with academics from various disciplines. The programme will comprise roundtable discussions, panels and creative workshops.

 

Sponsors

       

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Judith E Wilson Fund, Faculty of English.

Day 1 - 6 December

09.00-9.20

Registration

09.20-09.30

Introduction

Ekin Bodur (University of Cambridge) and Clare L.E. Foster (CRASSH)

09.30-10.30

Conversations with Artists: Özlem Daltaban & Murat Daltaban (DOT Theatre Istanbul & Edinburgh)

Özlem and Murat have produced and directed Meet Me at Dawn, a version of Orpheus and Eurydice by Zinnie Harris at the Arcola Theatre, London for this season. Their co-production of Brecht’s “Mrs. Puntila and her Man Matti” is upcoming at Royal Lyceum Theatre and Citizen Theatre in Edinburgh in February 2020.

10.30-11.30

Keynote: Tina Chanter (Philosophy, Newcastle University)

Beyond Antigone’s Meanings: Unearthing the unthought ground under/on which Hegel’s Antigone might have buried a slave, with the help of Mbembe’s critique of black time, and reflections on the ‘Global South’

Tina Chanter is a Professor of Philosophy at Newcastle University. She has published on contemporary French philosophy, drawing inspiration from a range of sources, including feminist theory, race theory, psychoanalysis, art, politics, film and tragedy. Her most recent books are: Whose Antigone? The Tragic Marginalisation of Slavery, and Art, Politics and Rancière: Broken Perceptions. She taught in the US, most recently in Chicago, before returning to the UK, where she worked and taught in Bristol and London before her recent move to Newcastle University.

11.30-12.00

Tea and Coffee

12.00-13.30

Panel: A Case Study: “Antigones

How does adapting tragedy bear witness to political conflict?

Chair: Andrés Henao Castro (University of Massachusetts, Boston) 

  • Katherine Fleming (English and Drama, Queen Mary University of London) “Antigone, WWII and the battleground of philosophy”
  • Kristina Hagström-Ståhl (Performative Arts, University of Gothenburg) “Un-doing Antigone
  • Ekin Bodur (English, University of Cambridge) “When Antigone embodies collective resistance”
  • Andrés Henao Castro (University of Massachusetts, Boston) “Antigone and the necrodialectic of enforced disappearances.”
13.30-14.30

Lunch

14.30-16.00

Panel: Re-/Un-working tragedy in times/zones of crisis

 How do people in various zones of crisis embrace, interpret and adapt canonical traditions of tragedy to make sense of their suffering and express their resistance? 

 How might we rethink the adaptations of canonical tragedies as a destabilizing gesture – an un-working, rather than re-working - through perspectives from the Global South?

Chair: Barbara Goff (Classics, University of Reading) 

  • Sola Adeyemi (Theatre and Performance, Goldsmiths University of London) “Re: Un/Working Canonical Texts: Interpreting the Modern African Literature”
  • Ramona Mosse (Freie Universitat, Berlin)“Un-Working Tragedy in the 21st Century: Milo Rau’s Congo Tribunal”
  • Miriam Leonard (Classics, University College London)“Tragedy and Emancipation”
  • Rebekah Maggor (Performing and Media Arts, Cornell University)“Hamlet Wakes Up Late: A Syrian Satirical Tragedy for Interesting Times
16.00-16.30

Tea and Coffee

16.30-18.00

Practical Workshop: Can a dramatic text or performance ever be universal?

Mark Maughan & Tim Cowbury (Theatre Makers, a Writer-Director Partnership)


The Claim (Oberon, 2018) is a theatre piece written by Tim Cowbury and directed by Mark Maughan that was researched and developed for three years before its first critically acclaimed UK tour in 17/18. It has since played Plaines Plough's Roundabout auditorium as part of the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 and is currently booking an international tour for throughout 2020. 

Taking the slippery nature of translation and the Home Office’s interview process for granting asylum as its initial sources of inspiration, we set out to create a piece that was as engaging for those with little to no knowledge or experience of the process as it was for those who have lived experience of this flawed official system. 

This workshop will cover how we embarked on an integrated and lengthy research and development period, with the support of migrant organisations and asylum seekers and refugees, how Tim out of that wrote a text that is in turns absurd, hilarious and tragic. We will reflect on whether we have managed to create a truly 'universal' piece in the context of The Claim, whether there can be a decolonised text, and how the very notion of an assumed 'us’ is already  at play in many theatre texts, which forms part of the problem. 

19.00-21.00

Dinner (reserve your place via the event registration link)

Day 2 - 7th December

10.00-11.30

Panel: Deterritorialization / Reterritorialization: Global South Perspectives 

Is there such a thing as a global south perspective? Or perspectives? 

Do they use canonical counter-discourse to decolonize tragedy, and offer an immediate critique of the western idea of the canon? Or do they add pile upon pile on the very same canon?

Chair: Sami Everett (CRASSH, Univeristy of Cambridge)

Participants:

  • Astrid Van Weyenberg (Film and Literary Studies, Leiden University)“Global South Adaptations: Some thoughts on Categorization & Comparison”
  • Jane Montgomery Griffiths (Theatre and Performance, Monash University)“Queer adaptation and the hybridizing of Titus Andronicus
  • Anna Frieda Kuhn (Comparative Literature, University of Würzburg) “Sound and the South: Staging Greek Tragedy in Post-Colonial South Africa”
  • Eylem Ejder (Theatre Studies, Ankara University)“Rewritten Tragedies, Unfinished Rehearsals: Dramaturgy of Interruption in Turkey”
11.30-12.00

Tea and Coffee

12.00-13.30

Roundtable Discussion: The Politics of Adaptation

Is there a unified or trans-historical idea of tragedy? 

Is adapting a Greek tragedy to comment on the political present unfair to the text? 

Chair: Zoe Svendsen (English, Cambridge University, Theatre Director)

Participants:

  • Rosa Andujar (Liberal Arts and Classics, King’s College London) 
  • Simon Goldhill (Classics, Cambridge University)
  • Jennifer Wallace (English, Cambridge University)
13.30-14.30

Lunch

14.30-15.30

Conversation with artistBasharat Peer (screenwriter, Haider (2014), a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set in Kashmir)

Basharat Peer is an opinion editor at The New York Times. He is the author of Curfewed Night (2010), an account of the conflict in Kashmir, and A Question of Order: India, Turkey and the Return of Strongmen (2017). He wrote the screenplay of Haider, a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Related articles:

Basharat Peer: The man who scripted Haider, Business Standard
Kashmiri ‘Hamlet’ Stirs Rage in India, New York Times
New Shakespeare Movie Puts Hamlet In Kashmir, NPR

15.30-16.45

Final Address and Discussion:

Speaker: Ankhi Mukherjee (English and World Literatures, Oxford University)

“On Antigone’s Suffering”

My paper examines the symbolic overload of Antigone figurations in Hegel, Lacan, and Butler to study her strange reincarnations in postcolonial fiction, such as Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire. In exegetical literature, Antigone stands interchangeably as the ethical subject, the force of resistance to the interdictions of state power, the claims of kinship (in tragic opposition to Creon’s claim of universality), messianic violence, anti-authoritarianism and feminism. Shamsie’s evocation of Antigone goes against the grain of Hegel’s reading of her as hypostatised law and Lacan’s deciphering in her actions the vicissitudes of Eros. Nor is the figure easily reducible to the claims of the non-normative family alone, as Butler famously argues. Like other works of postcolonial fiction before her, Shamsie foregrounds the raced body at the intersection of love and politics, society, faith and family: Antigone, here, is both timeless myth and a contingent redrawing of polity in the twenty-first century for the socially marginalised who seek cultural intelligibility. 

Moderator: Efe Khayyat (Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University; Visiting Fellow at Woolf Institute, Cambridge University)

Final Discussion: Clare L. E. Foster