This article was posted on 01 Jun 2014, and is filed under Volume 3, Issue 1.

Solidarity and Soldier(ity): Using Theatre in Military Contexts

Nandita Dinesh

Abstract: As a theatre practitioner-teacher-researcher-student, my work over the last few years has involved the use of community-based theatre in times/places of war. From Guatemala to Rwanda, from Northern Ireland to my own ‘Indian’ spaces of Kashmir and Nagaland, the potential and the limitations of theatre to respond to violence has formed the crux of my work. However, working primarily with ‘civil society’ (those who are widely considered to be ‘victims’ of war in all these contexts) last year has led to a critical questioning of my own biases in the choice of my target audiences. If theatre is to respond to war, must it not also engage with those who are considered the ‘perpetrators’?

It is in the context of this question that my six-week endeavour to teach theatre to military cadets emerges. My bi-weekly theatre sessions with cadets at the National Defence Academy in the city of Pune (India) resulted in the creation of a devised performance entitled Waiting – a piece that wove together excerpts from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with monologues that the cadets wrote about things/people that they are waiting for. Using this experience as the primary stimulus, this text is a ‘creative new work’ that seeks to explore multiple performance (auto) ethnographies that emerged during the process.

This project’s approach to solidarity might be seen as an attempt to ensure ‘that we are only ever collaborators, co-inquirers, experiencing the work in an entirely valid but never superior way’ (Thompson 2009, p.134). In such an approach, solidarity can be about exploring – Thompson now quotes from Rancière – ‘an examination of “systems of possibilities” rather than assertions of certainties’ (Thompson 2009, p.134).

Keywords: (auto) ethnography; theatre & war; ‘perpetrators’; military contexts; solidarity.

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Biography: Nandita Dinesh currently teaches Theatre and heads the Arts Department at UWC Mahindra College, India. She is a Ph.D candidate in Drama at the University of Cape Town, and has received an M.A. in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Focussing on the role that theatre can play during and after violent conflict, Nandita has conducted community-based theatre projects in India (Ahmedabad, Nagaland, Jammu, and Kashmir), Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.

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© Nandita Dinesh

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