“Zones of Occult Instability”: A South African Perspective on Negotiating Colonial Afterlives Through Intercultural Performance

  • Yvette Hutchison
Part of the Contemporary Performance InterActions book series (CPI)


This chapter considers the relationship between colonial afterlives lived in the present and contemporary debates about intercultural performance from a South African perspective. M. Jacqui Alexander argues that re-engaging colonialism in the present is complex because although none of us alive today lived the first round of the empire, the epistemologies, systems, and knowledges it created continue to define and haunt us (Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005, 1). Thus, we need to invoke “palimpsestic time,” which is coeval, “here and there, then and now” to question and explore critically the afterlives of colonialism. I explore the centrality of intercultural productions that access Frantz Fanon’s “zones of occult instability,” particularly when performances related to national histories use what might be termed intercultural theatre techniques in a specific context, and then travel on global festival circuits. I begin by situating this analysis in relation to the terms intra- and intercultural theatre, and analyse how Handspring Puppet Company’s Woyzeck on the Highveld and Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B directly address Africa’s colonial past to consider the relationships between past and present, postcolonialism and intercultural performance practices as viewed from both local and global perspectives, before reading the implications of these strategies against what Chantal Mouffe (The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso, 2000) terms “agonistic pluralism.”

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

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