Ric Knowles

Ric Knowles

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2013/14, 2017/18

Ric Knowles is University Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Canada, past editor of Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, and the Canadian Theatre Review, and general editor of two book series. He is the author or editor of 20 books on theatre and performance, including Reading the Material Theatre (2004), Theatre & Interculturalism (2010), How Theatre Means (2014), and Performing the Intercultural City (2017). He has been awarded the Richard Plant Essay Prize three times, the Ann Saddlemyer Book Prize, the Patrick B. O’Neill Prize for Outstanding Edited Collection (Canadian Association for Theatre Research), and the Excellence in Editing, Sustained Achievement Award (Association for Theatre in Higher Education). In 2009 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2017 was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research. He works as a professional dramaturge with theatre companies with mandates to work across cultural difference. 

Research Project

International Theatre Festivals and the 21st Century Traffic in Cultures

How do international theatre festivals contribute to and shape intercultural representation, negotiation, and exchange in the 21st century?

Since the 1990s there has been an exponential increase in the number and type of festivals around the world. Meanwhile, events that used merely to be events have been “festivalized”: structured, marketed, and promoted in ways that stress brand identities, urban centres as tourist destinations, and the corporate attractiveness of “creative cities,” all participating in the “eventification” of culture. These corporate, municipal, and state practices, and the critical literature supporting them have paid less attention to the actual content and impact of international festivals that draw from and represent multiple cultures and cultural forms, or to what roles festivals play in one of the most urgent processes of our times: intercultural communication and exchange. 

The critical and theoretical challenges of my project are: 1) relationally to consider international theatre, performance, and combined arts festivals in the 21st century as sites of tension between the local and global, and as sites of unequal negotiation between cultures and cultural forms; 2) to analyse the impact of globalization and urban promotional discourses, such as the “creative city” theory, and of branding on the ways in which intercultural negotiations are framed and practiced; and 3) to investigate ways in which such festivals can be reconfigured to better enable cross-cultural understanding and a new “interculturalism ‘from below’” rather than through state intervention, particularly in increasingly intercultural “global cities.”     

Recommended Publications

  • Knowles, R., Performing the Intercultural City. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017.
  • Knowles, R., Reading the Material Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • McMahon, C. S., Recasting Transnationalism through Performance: Theatre Festivals in Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Brazil. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 
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