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Editorial

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2021

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Summary

Brecht Among Strangers was the title of the sixteenth symposium of the International Brecht Society (IBS), which took place in Leipzig from June 19 to 23, 2019. It was organized by the Centre of Competence for Theatre (CCT) at the University of Leipzig, in cooperation with the Leipzig Institute of Theatre Studies and Schauspiel Leipzig. More than one hundred academic presentations by Brecht scholars from five continents, two keynotes, five roundtables, four workshops, and twelve theater performances were devoted to the question of the foreign in Brecht's work and its significance for the present. Our choice of topic proved to be doubly contemporary: on the one hand, it (finally) took up the frequently underestimated role that strangeness and the experience of foreignness play in Brecht's life and work. Brecht was confronted with the strange throughout his life. He was exposed to it everywhere he went, and anywhere he lived he was a stranger among strangers. Furthermore, he turned the experience of being a stranger into the linchpin of his entire artistic project. His plays, prose, and poetry as well as the texts he wrote about theater and the other arts and about politics and society tell us that the experience of being alien is the precondition for the possibility of a future community among strangers. On the other hand, the subject of the symposium Brecht Among Strangers could not have been more pertinent and relevant to the challenges of the present. Brecht's intense confrontation with foreignness is more relevant now than ever in an era when, on a daily basis, fear and hatred of foreigners continue to demonstrate a fundamental inability to live among strangers even in a period of increasing globalization and migration. The overarching goal of the symposium Brecht Among Strangers, therefore, was to contribute to cosmopolitan conviviality: living together as strangers among strangers.

In Brecht's work, the strange is not simply that which is exotic and distanced. It does not mean merely strangers (or foreigners) from other countries, together with customs and moral attitudes that may appear strange (or foreign) to those who “belong”—who perceive themselves, however correctly, to be “at home.” A perspective that takes its cues from Brecht starts by exploring what seems to be radically alien in one's own world (culture, background, personality): a strangeness that resists facile integration.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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