Thoughts about “Interweaving Performance Cultures”

The recent debates on the politics of intercultural theatre practice have not only critiqued artistic ‘syncretism’ and negotiations, but articulated an optimistic belief in the achievability of a common “interweaving” across worldwide performance cultures.  Erika Fischer-Lichte is justly acclaimed as an exemplary de-mystifier – the thinker who has provided unsurpassed critiques of Eurocentric intercultural performance elements that lurk in the work of various western theatrical enterprises that went East & South. “The starting point for intercultural staging”, Fischer-Lichte rightly argues, “is thus not primarily an interest in the foreign – the foreign theatre or the foreign culture from which it is taken – but rather a situation completely specific within its own culture or a completely specific problem having its origin within its own theatre”. Indeed, only few researchers go back to the Indian origins of Mahabharata, while everyone celebrates the achievements of Peter Brook, for instance. For more than ten years our concern with theatrical hybridity was central to our study of the various forms the subalterns perform back while repeating Master models, yet in a different way or rather a different sameness of “almost the same, but not quite” as Homi Bhaba says. But do we have to consider hybridity as the ultimate and inexorable condition of all postcolonial subjectivities? Or shall we think of it as a road map leading to alternative exchanges? We know that these postcolonial subjectivities are just as diverse and their histories just as varied as the peoples who were colonized. Today, our conception of theatrical hybridity has become a source of some revisionism thanks to the research program entitled “The Interweaving of Performance Cultures”. Such research creates new horizons for the diversity of performance that has an incredible capacity to incorporate and integrate diasporic identities and migrating groups. There is an urgent need to perform anew the postcolonial stance; hybridization is only a first step. Christopher Balm concludes his study on Syncretism by emphasizing its transitional aspect: “Syncretism as a category in literary criticism is a necessary but ultimately transitional concept for describing cultural interaction – necessary, because the processes of mixing and recombination are indeed striking; transitional, because in the context of the globalization of culture it will ultimately be superfluous to define the norm of cultural process.”