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In 1983 US president Ronald Reagan told the Israeli Prime Minister that he, as a photographer during World War II, had documented the atrocities of the concentration camps on film. The story was later exposed as a fraud as it was revealed that Reagan had resided in Hollywood during the entire war. Does this mean that Reagan was simply an amoral liar or that he established a connection to the Holocaust that can be said to have evolved from the intersection between “real” and “reel”? Visions and Revisions. Performance, Memory, Trauma
brings the fields of performance studies and trauma studies together in conversation in order to investigate how these two fields both “envision” and “revision” one another in relation to crucial themes such as trauma, testimony, witness, and spectatorship. According to Peggy Phelan, a leading performance studies scholar, performance provides a unique model for witnessing events that are both unbearably real and beyond reason’s ability to grasp – traumatic events like the Holocaust. While Reagan’s claim is obviously both paradoxical and problematic, it opens up a space in which the potential insights that performance studies and trauma studies might bring to one another become particularly visible.
The first half of the anthology focuses on issues of spectatorship, specifically its ethics and the possibility of witnessing. The second half widens the discussion to include memory more broadly, shifting the emphasis from sight to site, and particularly to site-specific works and the embodied encounters they model, enable and enact. The contributors here fill a critical gap, raising questions about how popular and mediatized performances that memoralize trauma might be viewed through performance theory. They also look at how performance studies might shift its focus from the visual to the sensorial and material and in doing so, they offer a fresh perspective on both performance and trauma studies.
Writing from different disciplinary vantages and drawing on multiple case studies from South Africa, the former Soviet Union, Lebanon and Thailand, among others, the contributors decolonize trauma studies and make us question, how and where our own eyes and bodies are positioned as we revision the scenes before us. Contributors:
Laurie Beth Clark/Helena Grehan/Geraldine Harris/ Chris Hudson/Petra Kuppers/Adrian Lahoud/Sam Spurr/Christine Stoddard/Bryoni Trezise/Maria Tumarkin/Caroline Wake. Editors:
Bryoni Trezise is a lecturer in theatre and performance studies at the University of New South Wales, where Caroline Wake is a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia.