University of Sussex
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Shifting terrains: the depoliticisation of political theatre in Pakistan

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:21 authored by Asma Mundrawala
This dissertation examines the shifts in the practice of political theatre in Pakistan through the study of two theatre groups, the Tehrik e Niswan (The Women’s Movement) and Ajoka (Of Today), that emerged in the 80’s under General Zia ul Haque’s military regime, and through newer theatre groups (Raasti, Murk, Hayat e Nau) and NGO-based theatre training organisations (Interactive Resource Centre, IRC) that were created or were impacted by the advent of neoliberalisation in the country in the 90’s. The impact of finances not only influenced the growth of many small theatre groups that prescribed to the needs and demands of the NGOs under the broader Development agenda, but also saw shifts in the work of Tehrik e Niswan and Ajoka, from the voluntary and ideology-based nature of their work to one that was ultimately incorporated into the dominant culture. Moreover, what was evident through the work done by theatre groups under the development agenda was that theatre as a tool for social critique was depoliticised and seen as a commodity, transforming its role from self-directed activism to donor-driven activism. One common aspect between the groups under discussion is their underlying adherence to western orientated approaches to political theatre through the theories of Brecht or Boal, which informs their work in many ways. While examining how Brecht’s theories have influenced the practices of Tehrik e Niswan and Ajoka, or Boal’s theories have been used and even extracted from their original context by the IRC, I also argue for a need to re examine notions about selfhood and agency that the groups advocate in their practice, through analysing or examining alternative concepts of agency in non liberal traditions and away from thedominant discourse.


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