On October 4, the Theatre and Dance Department celebrates the publication of a new book edited by Professor Lara D. Nielsen, who teaches theatre and performance studies at Macalester. She has previously published articles and reviews in Performance Research, Women & Performance, Contemporary Theatre Review and other journals. This new book is a landmark work drawing together the perspectives of contemporary theatre scholars from around the world.
The book, co-edited with Patricia Ybarra of Brown University, is Neoliberalism and Global Theatres: Performance Permutations. Through 18 essays by cutting-edge scholars, it explores how theatre and performance transmit and dispute ideologies of neoliberalism. Diverse ideas about market logic and notions of freedom draw on case studies from New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, India, Nigeria, and the United States.
The book contrasts the conventional view that theatre and performance can be counted on to critique the power structure with evidence that they are also, in fact, entwined with it. In Nielsen’s words: “The arts are not just sites for political resistance, they participate in the practices and ideologies of political economy.”
“The major questions in this volume,” explains Nielsen, “revolve around a political economy that advertises the entrepreneurial model of artistic work as the laudable way to negotiate neoliberalism and finance capital ‘from below,’ while ignoring the urgent pressures that the typically nonprofit artists experience globally. So we are as interested in the practical challenges marketization poses to the arts, as we are in the ways that the arts of theatre and performance theorize those challenges, and we looked for scholars who were working through these challenges.”
Aimed primarily at an audience of scholars and students, the book is a way to address the changing means of production of the arts. “At issue,” says Nielsen, “is the question of whether the conjunctions of neoliberal ideologies and financialization can deliver better futures—and for whom.”