Palimpsests of Violence: Urban Dispossession and Political Theatre in Istanbul


Emine Fişek


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

What is the relationship between theatre and politics in contemporary Turkey? The answer to this question is linked to the proliferation of so-called alternative theatres in Istanbul in the twenty-first century. Designating theatre ventures that exist outside the publicly funded state and municipal theatre circuits, the phrase "alternative theater" is one way in which artists, critics, and audiences have referenced the proliferation of theatrical activity that has characterized the new millennium. Of course, a broader historical lens reminds us that experimental theatre companies had already emerged in Turkish metropoles in the 1960s; but the sheer political, aesthetic, and institutional variety of twenty-first-century alternative theatre is better traced to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Istanbul-based ventures like Bilsak Tiyatro, Kumpanya, 5. Sokak Oyuncuları, and Şahika Tekand's Stüdyo Oyuncuları sought to create autonomous spaces for theatrical expression, research, and pedagogy. This search has only accelerated in the twenty-first century, with new spaces like GalataPerform, Kumbaracı50, DOT, Moda Sahnesi, İkinciKat, MekanArtı, and Şermola Performans (among many others) vying for public visibility. Alternative theatre is not a monolithic whole, yet one trend that has characterized the domain's emergent work is a concern with the politics of both collective and individual memory as well as the complexities of national identity in twentieth-century Turkey.

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