Helen Gilbert is Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she directs the Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research and co-convenes the College’s interdisciplinary Postcolonial Research Group. Educated in Australia and Canada, she has published widely on theatre and performance in various parts of the world as well as taught across a range of subjects in postcolonial fields. Her books include Performance and Cosmopolitics: Cross-Cultural Transactions in Australasia (co-written with Jacqueline Lo), Postcolonial Plays: An Anthology, Sightlines: Race, Gender and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre, and Postcolonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (co-author Joanne Tompkins). She is currently finishing a collaborative book on the fascinating cultural history of orangutans and leading an interdisciplinary and multinational project on indigeneity and performance, funded until 2014 by the European Research Council.
This project explores the recent, rapid development of indigenous performance globally, its enthusiastic reception in national and international contexts, and its local significance and value. The primary focus is on regions of the world settled during the great era of European expansionism, notably Australia, the Pacific Islands, the Americas and South Africa. I am especially interested in how evolving concepts of indigeneity may contribute to broader understandings of heritage, belonging, social cohesion and mobility in multicultural societies, and how cultural values, knowledge and practices are transmitted, through performance, across place and time. During the fellowship period, I’ll focus on two long essays: the first investigates indigeneity, translation and reciprocity, while the second explores indigenous pageantry in opening ceremonies of Commonwealth and Olympic Games. I’m also editing a special issue of the postcolonial journal Interventions that will complement my project work by bringing together a range of interdisciplinary perspectives on indigenous cultural production. While in Berlin, I hope to conduct preliminary research on the circulation and reception within Germany of Aboriginal, Maori and Native American performances. The aim is to trace patterns in the representation of specific indigenous cultures, paying attention to the ways in which performance makers have used international platforms to express political as well as aesthetic concerns. This research engages to varying degrees with current debates in international relations, postcolonial studies, cultural geography, anthropology, performance theory and environmental studies.