Open presentation of workshop by Martha Bouziouri

Dramaturgies of the other: self-making & sens-making in contemporary documentary theatre

The workshop is triggered by the stereotyped representation of the refugee identity in the dominant western discourse embedded in media, politics and occasionally the arts.

On one hand, we are acquainted with the “awareness of the suffering” debate in an effort to provoke a more sensitive public opinion and stimulate solidarity. Without rejecting its good intentions and provisional impact, such a narrative renders refugees a disempowered, anonymous category that depends on our empathy and support. And while it might temporarily ameliorate the dire conditions refugees go/have been through, it perpetuates a state of exception and manifests an imbalance of power between those in need of help and those in capacity of providing it. Refugees are confined to a powerlessness schema which leaves little space for them to maintain their dignity, regain their confidence and reclaim their future.

On the other hand, we get more and more accustomed to the opportunistic agendas of populist political leaders who designedly ignite and play on fears, pumping up xenophobia for political gain by warning the electorate of the consequences of their countries being invaded by massive flows of newcomers. The “refugees as dangerous others” narrative was recently ignited and legitimized by the appalling terror acts occurring at a European ground. These acts of blind hatred and extremism result into the mutation of terror-phobia into islamophobia and subsequently boost a worrying anti-refugee/anti-Muslim propaganda all across Europe. 

The above “victimization – demonization” narrative dipole proliferates and establishes a misleading and, on several occasions, dangerous ground. A set of critical questions emerges: How do we challenge this narrative? How do we encourage the creation of counter narratives that highlight underrepresented, diverse and subtle identity aspects of people with a refugee background, beyond the misleading extremes of “victimhood or threat”? How do we invent a different storytelling that replaces pity, fear and prejudice with a culture of openness, understanding and intimacy? How do we harvest the fruits of the diversity tree that generously grows in our European yard to our mutual benefit? 

In this context, documentary theatre potentially emerges as a space for pluralistic, self-determined and dynamic identity placements. History being in the making, this dramatic genre makes sense of the experienced shifts, challenges and transformations in an effort to create contemporary dramaturgies that break the stereotypes of the “refugee identity” and provide an inclusive, human-oriented stage for cultural pluralism and sociopolitical awareness.


Open presentation: 17/04/2018, 19:00

MSN, Pańska street