Re-/Un-working Tragedy and 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 if you would like to be kept informed about the event, or have any other questions. 


Lead Convenor

Ekin Bodur (University of Cambridge)

The conference is also supported by members of the Re- Interdisciplinary Network



Building on ideas explored in the Re- Interdisciplinary Network's CRASSH events, the conference aims to examine ideas of repetition through the lens of the history of tragedy and its reception in the Global South, in the process raising questions about the problems of those categories as they are changing.

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 might we rethink the tragic canon as a destabilizing gesture – an un-working, rather than re-working - through perspectives from the Global South? How does recognisable repetition operate as a unique kind of site for invention, and for speech?

This conference aims to scrutinize the literary, political, and philosophical relevance of reworking/unworking tragedy in cross-cultural contexts. It takes up the notion 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 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 reworkings of classical works?
  • Does the reworking of classical tragedy in the global south transform the idea of the canon and decolonise the literary curricula?

Blanchot, Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Agamben refer to ‘unworking’, or désoevrementas a concept that interrupts, suspends, and counteracts the work in the moment of its unfolding. In making use of this concept, 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.

Roundtable discussions, panels and creative workshops will bring artists and authors who adapt classical tragedies together with academics from various disciplines to explore:

  • Re/Un-working Tragedy in zones/times of crisis
  • Global South perspectives on the authority and authenticity of the text
  • Rethinking the tragic ‘canon’ as a mixing space
  • The politics of adaptation and translation in the Global South
  • Decolonising the tragedy curriculum
  • Re/Un-working the chorus and the changing audiences




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