Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Performance, Politics, Belonging

› Helen Gilbert
Charlotte Gleghorn
› Rose Harriman
› Sergio Miguel

› Genner Llanes-Ortiz
› Arifani Moyo
› Dani Phillipson
› Melissa Poll
› Dylan Robinson

› Michelle H. Raheja
› Rebecca Kiddle
› Charles Royal

› Ocean Ripeka

› Peter Morin

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Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Performance, Politics, Belonging is a five year research initiative funded by the European Research Council and based at Royal Holloway, University of London.

This transnational and interdisciplinary project explores how indigeneity is expressed and understood in our complex, globalising world. The aim is to determine what indigeneity has come to mean in particular places and at key moments over the last several decades, and what kind of cultural, political, ethical and aesthetic issues are negotiated within its canvass. To address these questions, the research team will analyse performance as a vital mode of cultural representation and a dynamic social practice. Performance is interpreted broadly to include not only theatre, film and dance, but also mixed-media and site-based work, Olympic pageantry, festival events, political protests and cultural displays within tourism ventures. In this context, indigeneity is recognised as a fluid and contested concept with very particular local inflections and investments, even among original peoples or ‘First Nations’ who regard themselves as indigenous to specific areas. While the research will focus on regions settled during the great era of European imperialism, notably Australia, the Pacific Islands, the Americas and South Africa, the project also addresses the transnational circulation of indigeneity as a highly marketable commodity, particularly in Europe.


   Research Questions

  • How is the concept of indigeneity used to engage with urgent social, philosophical, cultural and environmental issues?

  • How does indigenous performance speak to existing theories of globalisation?

  • What are the different understandings of indigeneity across different media and cultures?

  • How does indigenous performance convey embodied knowledge?

  • How are indigenous cultures expressed and interpreted in different performance contexts?

  • What does indigenous performance contribute to cultural memory, belonging and heritage transmission?

  • How do questions relating to cosmopolitanism and nation emerge in indigenous performances?

  • How may interdisciplinary dialogues about indigeneity shape existing research on social practices?

  • How does indigenous performance negotiate trans-local systems of power and knowledge, linked to specific colonial histories and contemporary cultural flows?
  • Under the leadership of Professor Helen Gilbert, the multinational research team works within four broad conceptual themes: ‘Commodity and Spectacle’, ‘Heritage and Material Culture’, ‘Mobility and Belonging’ and ‘Reconciliation and Social Cohesion’. Six interconnected projects are underway:

    • Indigeneity and Performance: Transnational Considerations (Helen Gilbert)
    • Authorship, Aesthetics and Political Action in Latin American Indigenous Film and Video (Charlotte Gleghorn)
    • Mobilising Ritual and Celebrating the Seeds of Mayan Culture in the Yucatan and Belize (Genner Llanes-Ortiz)
    • Indigeneity and Performance in Social Protest and Festivals in Ecuador and Peru (Sergio Miguel Huarcaya)
    • Indigeneity in post-TRC South African musical theatre (Arifani Moyo)
    • Performing Themselves: Saskatchewan First Nations Youth Identities (Dani Phillipson)
    • Indigenous Music Performance and the Aesthetics of Reconciliation in Canada (Dylan Robinson)

    As well as developing their own research, core team members host yearly symposia and conference events and will collectively prepare an educational DVD as well as a public exhibition. Visiting research fellows and practitioners have been invited to contribute to the project over the five-year period.  

    Recent and Upcoming

    EcoCentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts exhibition, 25 October – 9 November 2013. Follow us on facebook and twitter.

    In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization conference, 24–27 October 2013

    ERC Funded by a €2.36m grant from the European Research Council for 2009–2014 to build skills among early-career researchers and cover research costs.
    The project is hosted by the Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London.
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