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Unit information: Decolonising Performance in 2020/21

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Unit name Decolonising Performance
Unit code THTR20019
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sedgman
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Theatre
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This second-year unit examines plays and performances produced in a range of colonial and postcolonial contexts. By introducing key theories of postcolonialism it explores the strategies of power that are wielded by colonising nations, and demonstrates how theatre has been used within different cultures as a tool for resistance. Case studies span a range of contexts that could include Australasia, Nigeria, India, the Black Power movement and the contemporary Black Lives Matter campaign, the changing landscape of globalisation, and competing local/national identities within the 'United Kingdom'. Through studying specific plays, playwrights, and theatre-makers within their social contexts, students will explore the interplay between place, identity, race, and nationalism. This unit enquires how playwrights from 'subaltern' (i.e. subordinated or oppressed) cultures have sought to find a voice for 'their' people through performance, and what potentials theatre may hold for creating a more equal society today.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1) locate colonialism and postcolonialism within its social and theatrical contexts through engagement with key theories of interculturalism;

2) analyse a range of plays and performance events by applying frameworks of power, identity, resistance, and community;

3) conceptualise new potentials for developing strategies of performative critique and expression within contemporary social contexts;

4) demonstrate the ability to undertake primary and secondary research and to use this research to sustain a coherent argument, as appropriate to Level I.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures, seminars, on-line discussion forums and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: Seminar presentations in preparation for and responding to digital assessment, including bibliography, survey of relevant literature, and argument. Assessed for formative purposes.

Summative: Digital performed presentation* (12-15 minutes) for an individual mark (100%)

  • Digital presentations can be created using the free online Prezi application, accessible via the internet through university computers.

Reading and References

Amkpa, Awam (2004) Theatre and Postcolonial Desires, London: Routledge.

Balme, Christopher (1999) Decolonizing the Stage: Theatrical Syncretism and Post-Colonial Drama, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crow, Brian & Chris Banfield (1996) An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theatre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fanon, Frantz (2008) Black Skin White Masks, London: Pluto Press.

Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism, New York: Pantheon.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1988) ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (pp. 271-313), London: Macmillan Education UK.