Senior Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, Faculty of Letters and Humanities at Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tétouan, Morocco. Since 1998, coordinator of the Research Group for Performance Studies at AEU; 2003-2008, member of the Executive Committee of the Union of Professional Theatre in Morocco; since 2006, Founding President of the International Centre for Performance Studies (NGO), Tangier; since January 2007, member of the Editorial Committee of Contemporary Theatre Review; since July 2007, Founding Member of the Arabic Working Group, International Federation for Theatre Research (FIRT); since 2004, main convener of the international conference Performing Tangier; Director of Tangier’s Professional Theatre Festival (July 2006, July 2007 and July 2008). Khalid Amine is the Editor of ICPS Performance Studies Series and has published widely in international theatre journals such as TDR, Documenta, Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies or FIRT Journal.
Fields of Silence in Arabic Performance Studies – Emerging Sites of Research
My research seeks to explore aspects and processes of ‘interweaving of theatre cultures’ in Arabic Theatre theatre today. As early as 1981, Richard Schechner rightly admitted that every performance has at its core a ritual action, a restoration of behaviour: “Performance behavior is known and/or practical behavior or ‘twice-behaved behavior’, ‘restored behavior’”. Research in performative culture becomes intrinsic in worldwide theater theatre projects that seek to acquire presence. African and Middle Eastern theaters theatres are part of these dynamics of recovering past performing traditions and rituals. The 16th version of Experimental Theater of Cairo in 2004 exemplified this tendency through many ritualistic theatrical experiments from Jordan, the Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, and Kurdistan….
Many of us think of rituals and ceremonies as highly codified performative forms that have been handed down through successive generations in an unbroken line or thread. But age, alone, is not enough, for ritualistic formulae are not simply a legacy from the past in so far as they still inform Arabic discourses on theatrical performance even today. Rites, ceremonies, and oral traditions are crucial in any enumeration of what counts as theatre. It goes without saying that the field of theatre studies Theatre Studies is rapidly being re-shaped by the principle of performance, abetted by the rise of multiculturalism, interdisciplinary and performance studies. Rituals and ceremonies as performances are often thought of as art forms. Their aesthetic qualities are one way of setting them apart from everyday life; they may involve poetic language, stylized gesture, or other artistic elements. They take place in front of an audience whose members mostly share a cultural and spiritual repertory of knowledge about the artistic merits of the performance and the appropriateness of its content. However, such performances tend to bridge the gap between observers and observed and create a shared ‘habitus’ that encompasses performers and audience within the same performance space.
Rational and Aims of Research
Performance studies have long studied the world; the world is now ‘studying back’. And we are part of this writing-back world. Little attention is paid to Arabic theater theatre due to the scarcity of scripts and bibliographical information as well as the lack of translation. I hope that the results of this research project will open forums of discussion among scholars of performance studies both in Arab World and the rest of the Globe, as it is committed to the aim of introducing Arabic theater to other audiences. As for its relevance to Western academia, it can be seen as a first step towards a close account of Arabic performance history from the perspective of a Moroccan scholar and practitioner. I situate my work between performance studies and anthropological studies, and at this point I must admit that I am indebted to the following scholars: Marvin Carlson, Patrice Pavis, Richard Schechner, and Erica Fischer-Lichte, for introducing me to the field of Performance Studies and intercultural theatre. My research in the Institute of Advanced Studies at Berlin will be a good opportunity for exchange and dialogue between East and West. The transposition of traditional performance behavior to a theater building spells out a state of indecision. Such indecision is part of the predicament of the Arab postcolonial subject, a subject who found himself construed on the borderlines of different narratives: The Western and the local. Postcolonial theater has boldly come to terms with the hybrid condition of the Arab subject who cannot exist otherwise due to the traumatic wounds that were inflected upon him by the colonial enterprise. The transfer of al-halqa to the stage constitutes a positive oscillation between opposites insofar as it bridges the gap of bipolar opposites by marrying them. Saddiki’s theater exemplifies this marriage between East and West, past and present, traditional and modern. In a related context, Edwad Said openly discredits all kinds of essentialism that surrounds discourses of national cultures: “Far from being unitary or monolithic or autonomous things, cultures actually assume more foreign elements, alterities, differences, than they consciously exclude”. And since culture is inherently hybrid, adaptive, and changing, performance itself is receptive to foreign elements.
Arab theater today is construed within a liminal space, on the borderlines between different tropes. It cannot exist otherwise, for it juxtaposes different heterogeneous entities only to emerge as a hybrid stage that is spaced between East and West. It is a fusion of Western theatrical traditions and the local Arabic performance traditions. The hybrid nature of Arabic theater is manifested in the very transposition of the halqa (as an important paradigm of Moroccan performativity) from jema-elfna to modern theater buildings like 'The National Theater Mohammed the Fifth', a theatre similar to Western theatre buildings. Thus, the postcolonial condition of Arabic theater today is characterized by hybridity as a dominant feature. Hybridity is not simply a fusion of two pure moments, but the persistent emergence of liminal third spaces that transform, renew, and recreate different kinds of writing out of previous models. And this constitutes our theatrical difference.
- Amine, K., Moroccan Theatre Between East and West, Tétouan: Faculty of Letters Publications, Abdelmalek Essaadi University, 2000.
- Amine, K., Fields of Silence in Moroccan Theatre, Rabat: Union of Moroccan Writers, 2004.
- Amine, K., Dramatic Art and the Myth of Origins: Fields of Silence [in Arabic], Tangier: International Centre for Performance Studies Publications, 2007.