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IFTR's Arabic Theatre Working Group



This collaborative article looks at the establishment in 2006 of an IFTR/FIRT working group in Arabic theatre, and the significance of this in terms of breaking the twentieth-century, hegemonic hold of European and North American subjects in theatre research. We trace the development of the working group from preliminary conferences and gatherings outside IFTR to its set-up and organization within the Federation. Surveying our methodologies, key issues, research areas and future directions, we argue the significance of the group's work in creating a research forum for Arab theatre scholarship.



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1 Freedley, George and Reeves, John A., A History of the Theatre (New York: Crown Publishers, 1941).

2 Brockett, Oscar, History of the Theatre (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1968), p. 8.

3 Al-Khozai, Mohammed, The Development of Early Arabic Drama 1847–1900 (London and New York: Longman, 1984), p. 28.

4 Chelkowsky, Peter J., ed., Taziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran (New York: New York University Press, 1979), p. 1.

5 Zarrilli, Phillip B., McConachie, Bruce, Williams, Gary Jay and Sorgenfrei, Carol Fischer, Theatre Histories: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2006), p. xvii.

6 In May 2005, as an informal follow-up to this enthusiasm, a Yahoo! listserve called AITheatre was set up by Hazem Azmy; see

8 Derrida, Jacques, ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’, in idem, Writing and Difference, trans. Bass, Alan (London: Routledge, 1978), pp. 278–94, here p. 360, our emphasis.

9 See Nehad Selaiha ‘Back on the Silk Road’, Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 October 2004,

10 See Litvin's blog on the topic at Also see the special issue of Critical Survey devoted to Arab Shakespeare and guest-edited by Litvin (19, 3, Winter 2007).

11 Margaret Litvin, ‘Arab Theatre in the New World Market’, The Experimental (daily of CIFET 2008), 13 October 2008, p. 1.

12 This approach is best exemplified in Amine and Carlson's current book project entitled Theatre in North Africa: The Performative Turn in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, to appear in the Palgrave series Studies in International Performance edited by J. Reinelt and B. Singleton.

13 For a table of the contents of this issue see www.ecumenicaljoural.or/page2.plip

14 Amine, Khalid and Carlson, Marvin, ‘Al-halqa in Arabic Theatre: An Emerging Site of Hybridity’, Theatre Journal, 60, 1 (March 2008), pp. 7187.

15 Jestrovic, Silvija and Meerzon, Yana, eds., Performance, Exile, and ‘America’ (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

16 Published in McKenzie, Jon, Roms, Heike and Wee, C. J. W.-L., eds., Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 191206.

17 Details available at the symposium's website at

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IFTR's Arabic Theatre Working Group



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