Environmentalism, Performance and Applications: Uncertainties and Emancipations

Mackey, Sally and Heddon, Deirdre (2012) Environmentalism, Performance and Applications: Uncertainties and Emancipations. Research in Drama Education : The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 17 (2). pp. 163-192. ISSN 1356-9783


This introductory article for a themed edition on environmentalism provides a particular context for those articles that follow, each of which engages with different aspects of environmentalism and performance in community-related settings. Responding to the proposition of Bottoms that there is a lacuna in the field of applied drama and environmentalism, we suggest that the more significant lack is that of ecocriticism. As the articles in this journal testify, there are many examples of applied theatre practice; what is required is sustained and rigorous critical engagement. It is to the gap of ecocriticism that we address this issue, signalling what we hope is the emergence of a critical field. One response to the multiple challenges of climate change is to more transparently locate the human animal within the environment, as one agent amongst many. Here, we seek to transparently locate the critic, intertwining the personal ourselves, human actants with global environmental concerns. This tactic mirrors much contemporary writing on climate change and its education, privileging personal engagement a shift we interrogate as much as we perform. The key trope we anchor is that of uncertainty: the uncertainties that accompany stepping into a new research environment; the uncertainties arising from multiple relations (human and non-human); the uncertainties of scientific fact; the uncertainties of forecasting the future; and the uncertainties of outcomes including those of performance practices. Having analysed a particular turn in environmental education (towards social learning) and the failure to successfully combine art and reality in recent UK mainstream theatre events, such uncertainties lead to our suggestion for an emancipated environmentalism. In support of this proposal, we offer up a reflection on a key weekend of performance practice that brought us to attend to the small but not insignificant and to consider first hand the complex relationships between environmental grand narratives and personal experiential encounters. Locating ourselves within the field and mapping out some of the many conceptual challenges attached to it serves to introduce the territories which the following journal articles expand upon.


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