ONLINE TALK: When Science is jumping off the stage: On the intersections of activism, theatre and scholarship

by Joschka Köck

A question that I have often asked myself as a researcher and theatre maker is: Can social science jump off the page and into reality? Can theatre jump off the stage and become/have impact on reality? In this webinar I will try to argue that this is not a yes/no question but rather we should ask: How can and do we have impact on reality as activist researchers/theatre makers?

In the session on 12 March (2pm GMT/3pm CET), I will introduce my research and practical experiences on the potentials of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) as spiritual activism for socio-ecological transformation and try to answer the above questions with practical examples from the research.

Register for the session

What is the Theatre of the Oppressed (TO)?

Theatre of the Oppressed is a range of techniques, games and exercises, using embodied narrative to support the empowerment and liberation of individuals and their communities. The approach was developed by Augusto Boal in South America, and has since been used all over the world in the building of community, to dynamize social engagement, in social movements and to support individuals to realise their creative potential for personal and social transformation.

“Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it.”

– Augusto Boal, Games For Actors & Non-Actors

In essence, it TO utilises theatre in order to generate solutions to real problems, create dialogue where before there was only monologue, and ultimately “humanise humanity” by enabling people to develop the skills and faculties to liberate themselves and others. It creates space for a rehearsal for life. It is a way of analysing the power dynamics of our society and our personal relationships, purporting that personal problems are social problems. (Thanks for this short explanation to Reboot the Roots, UK)

What can you expect from the online session?

I will firstly introduce TO as a methodology, movement and form of knowledge that on the one hand shares similarities with the Participatory Action Research (PAR) of the South and at the other hand transgresses dominant dichotomies in knowledge production (mind/body, ratio/emotions, researcher/subject-objects etc.)

Secondly, I will show how TO has inspired postcolonial performative auto-ethnographic research methods (Spry et al.) that I use in my own research project. In this way, I am trying to touch upon a question that is also shaped by dominant power structures in (social) science: How personal/emotional a research project is allowed to be and how much is the researcher allowed to be involved in it? I will try to show that research can suddenly get painful when you realise that you reproduce power structures that you actually set out to challenge and give you some other personal insights from autoethnographic research practice.

Thirdly, I will outline some processes that happened in my Action Research (and: what I perceived as Action Research in this process). Questions that are relevant to that are: How is the research project intertwined with reality? What actions have been set in the course of the research that have had an effect on reality? How does it transgress colonial, patriarchal or extractivist forms of knowledge production? How do we perceive our impact on society?

After the introduction and a short input, we will try to dialogue and explore the topics raised together focussing on the needs and interests of the participants in a Freirian way.

Some of my goals with science and academia are to open questions, complexities, showing insecurities and giving space to contemplate contradictions. I want to pursue a science that doesn‘t try to argue or show something and still has a clear political standpoint.

Joschka Köck is a PhD researcher with the University of Kassel, a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and activist with TdU Wien, Vienna. Trying to live researcher, activist and theatre art in one and not separated identities, he is constantly trying to learn to fail, unknow, be ready to be astonished and be at awe with the world. This means dealing with, challenging and admitting to reproduce colonial, developmental, capitalistic and patriarchal power structures at the same time, or in Haraway‘s words „staying with the trouble“.

2 Replies to “ONLINE TALK: When Science is jumping off the stage: On the intersections of activism, theatre and scholarship”

  1. Hello Joshka. I would have enjoyed participating in your online session, however, it will be in the middle of the night in Melbourne time, Australia, so I was wondering if you will document the talk for future access. I have been involved in theatre and activism for several decades in the Asia-Pacific region and find your topics of great interest. I hope the talk goes well tonight (today).

  2. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your interest, and, indeed, time zones are an issue we still struggle with. However, we will record the session and make it available in the “voices” section. For any exchanges beyond, I am sure Joschka is happy to interact and Convivial Thinking can get you connected. Feel free to reach out.

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