Participation, local stories, and inclusive democracy: playback theatre with refugees and asylum seekers.

Rea Dennis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is the full replication of my earlier published article of the same name, published in The Journal of Research in Drama Education, now know as RIDE: a journal of applied theatre in 2007: RIDE 12(3), 353-368. This chapter was selected to appear with 16 other authors in this collection of works charting the application of drama and theatre practices with and for refugees. Taking as its starting point Iris Marion Young's conception of democracy, it considers the placement of playback theatre as an arts practice within the refugee context and questions the ethics and aesthetics of this. It also presents a snapshot of the political/social/cultural climate in Australia and refugee and asylum seeker sector in Brisbane at the time of the performance by referencing discourses of multiculturalism and stranger danger in the wake of 9/11. Specific moments from the performance are analysed to examine the interaction of ritual performance structural power dynamics within the refugee-related audience. Editor Michael Balfour states: “The title of this book, Refugee Performance, suggests there is a constituency of practices that might be unified under a definite term or god forbid to propose a new field of study. This is far from the intentions of the collection. No one chooses to be a refugee, and certainly it is a tag that new settlers seek to transcend as swiftly as possible. There are significant issues with labelling the work directly as refugee performance. So the title of the book is inherently a paradox, but a paradox is not always a bad place to start a story. Nor is it improper to investigate something that combines contradictory qualities and features, as long as the paradox, the uncomfortable elements, hold their form. The objective is not to resolve the contradiction, but to understand it better.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRefugee Performance: Practical Encounters
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Dec 2012


  • refugee performance
  • narrative identity
  • playback theatre


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