Refugee Performance  (Book)

Practical Encounters

Edited by Michael Balfour

Exploring theatre works created for, by, and with refugees, this collection of essays combines newly commissioned scholarly work with examples of writing by refugees. These varied contributions illuminate performances that range from theatre in Thai refugee camps to site-specific works staged in a run-down immigrant community in the United Kingdom.


The title of this book, Refugee Performance, suggests there is a constituency of practices that might be unified under a definite term or god forbid to propose a new field of study. This is far from the intentions of the collection. This collection has grown out of an interest in performance and theatre in sites of war and the impact of conflict on diasporic communities. The chapters represent stories from a range of countries and war contexts, including Iraq, Thailand, Burma, Uganda, Palestine, Croatia, Serbia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Michael Balfour is chair of the Centre for the Arts in Development Communication. His previous books include Performance: In Place of War and Drama as Social Intervention.

Chapter 1: Iraqi Memories: A Personal and Poetic Exploration of Homecomings, Departures and Arrivals from a Theatre Director Who Fled Iraq in 1987 and Returns Home Again – Niz Jabour

Chapter 2: On Stitches – Michael Balfour and Nina Woodrow

Chapter 3: Health Theatre in a Hmong Refugee Camp: Performance, Communication, and Culture – Dwight Conquergood

Chapter 4: Play Extract: Forged in Fire – A performance text created by Okello Kelo Sam, Laura Edmondson, and Robert Ajwang

Chapter 5: Narrative Theatre as an Interactive Community Approach to Mobilizing Collective Action in Northern Uganda – Yvonne Sliep, Kaethe Weingarten, and Andrew Gilbert

Chapter 6: Marketing Trauma and the Theatre of War in Northern Uganda – Laura Edmondson

Chapter 7: Encounters in the Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine: Travel Notes on Attending Alrowwad Theatre’s Production of Handala (2011) – Rand T. Hazou

Chapter 8: Rape as War Strategy: A Drama from Croatia – Sanja Nikčević

Chapter 9: Far Away, So Close: Psychosocial and Theatre Activities with Serbian Refugees – Guglielmo Schininà

Chapter 10: Play Extract: Refugees – Zlatko Topčic´ (Translated into English by Davor Diklić)

Chapter 11: ‘Politics Begins as Ethics’: Levinasian Ethics and Australian Performance Concerning Refugees – Tom Burvill

Chapter 12: Refugee Performance: Encounters with Alterity – Michael Balfour

Chapter 13: Repeat Performance: Dancing DiDinga with the Lost Boys of Southern Sudan – Felecia Faye McMahon

Chapter 14: Theatre as a Healing Space: Ping Chong’s Children of War – Yuko Kurahashi

Chapter 15: Drama and Citizenship Education: Tensions of Creativity, Content and Cash – Sarah Woodland and Rob Lachowicz

Chapter 16: Inclusive Democracy: A Consideration of Playback Theatre with Refugee and Asylum Seekers in Australia – Rea Dennis

Chapter 17: Hospitable Stages and Civil Listening: Being an Audience for Participatory Refugee Theatre – Alison Jeffers

'A commendable resource' 

Choice by A. H. Fabos

'Editor Michael Balfour collates seventeen chapters which offer a comprehensive overview of the types of performance practices that can emerge from areas of displacement, and liminal or temporary spaces ... Its strength lies in this multi-regional approach' 

Studies in Theatre and Performance, Dawn Fowler

'[the book] presents an impressive array of perspectives on refugee performance by social workers, folklorists, writers, lawyers, theatre artists, and refugees themselves.' 

S.E. Wilmer, Journal Contemporary Theatre Review

'This book is the first comprehensive collection of essays on the practices and criticism of refugee performance. It presents a much needed wide range of reflections and analyses on refugee performance and procedural experiences from diverse approaches and regions. Through the lenses it provides, the book examines the aesthetics of contextualised performances, creative tensions and the dynamics of theatre as a healing space.'

Jessica A. Kaahwa, South African Theatre Journal
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