Helen Gilbert

Helen Gilbert, Royal Holloway University of London

Indigenous Cosmopolitans


With reference to recent to the work of Indigenous performance makers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and, where relevant, bringing in observations of how their work has circulated in European venues (usually as part of multicultural festivals), this paper will examine the body as a charged site of cosmopolitan representation. Questions canvassed include the following: What does the concept of cosmopolitanism add to current discussions of race, colonialism and postcolonialism? What is invested in the production of an Indigenous cosmopolitan body? Are such bodies always already inscribed with markers of race/ethnicity? How do Indigenous bodies register alongside or resonate with those of other minorities within various national and international polities? In what ways do corporeal forms of representation test the democratic claims of the new cosmopolitanism?


Helen Gilbert is an expert on race, colonialism, and global theatre. Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, Gilbert has co/authored several books, including: Performance and Cosmopolitics: Cross-Cultural Transactions in Australasia (2007) and Postcolonial Drama (1996). From 2009-14, she led a transnational, interdisciplinary ERC project focusing on indigenous performance in the Americas, the Pacific, Australia and South Africa. She has directed experimental performance work in universities, explored curatorial practices and curated a major exhibition of performance-based arts at Bargehouse on London’s Southbank. Her recent co-edited books include In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization (forthcoming 2017) and Recasting Commodity and Spectacle in the Indigenous Americas (2014). In 2015, she won a Humboldt Prize for accumulated achievements in international theatre and performance studies and is currently the visiting fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society in Munich.

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