|Working from the inside/out: Participatory popular theatre|
|Written by Miranda Young-Jahangeer|
Working from the inside/out: Participatory popular theatre in the negotiation of discursive power and patriarchy in Female Prisons: The example of Westville Female Correctional Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 2000 – 2004.
By Miranda Young-Jahangeer (2009)
Supervised by Professor Keyan Tomaselli
The period of transition in South Africa from apartheid to democracy offers a unique opportunity for broadening “the ongoing debate on the continuity of culture before and after decolonisation” (Gainor 1995: xv). This thesis attempts to provide new gendered dimensions to this dialogue through the analysis of popular culture generally and popular participatory theatre (PPT) specifically over a period of 5 years at Westville Female Correctional Centre. As such it is positioned within a Post-colonial Feminist (Mohanty 1991; Spivak 1988) imperative to create spaces for third world women to legitimise experience and explore possibilities for their own lives.
Incarcerated women globally are a small and specific community who experience and have experienced the multi-dimensional operation of patriarchal oppression (Agozino 1997; Carlen 1990, 2002; Worrall 1990, 2002). Thus the thesis also contributes to furthering the debate around female incarceration while responding to the real need to work against oppression from the inside out.
The introduction of performance-based recreation into the South African Correctional Facilities in 1996, offered new opportunities for partnerships between The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and outside institutions such as Drama and Performance Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Popular participatory theatre was introduced in Westville Female Correctional Centre in 2000. The theatre form evolved through this collaborative process to be reflective both of the academic facilitators’ influences of theatre for social change (Freire, 1970, 1974; Boal 1979, 1992; Mda 1993; Kamlongera, 1988) that is in essence dialogic (Freire 1970, 1974), and the inmates’ influences of African popular culture (Barber, 1997). The theatre is described and theorised debating issues of form and intention.
However to what extent are democratic, liberatory processes possible within a Correctional Centre environment? While post-colonial approaches are considered (Mbembe 2001), a Fiskean (1989) reading of the popular is useful here in its articulation of the ongoing negotiation between the power-bloc and the people. This analysis demanded an expansion of the scope from Prison Theatre to prison as theatre as the Correctional Centre became the stage for ‘guerrilla tactics’ through the renegotiation of identity and its performance. Specifically issues of motherhood, femininity, sexuality, abuse and health (HIV/AIDS).
In form the thesis is essentially theorises the narrative and the narratives of five central women as they evolve over a period of five years. It pivots on how the women at Westville appropriated and used the Prison Theatre in the negotiation of discursive power and patriarchy: as democratic communication, as propaganda and in the (re)negotiation of Zulu identity all of which are motivated primarily by the political desire to self actualise and generate self-esteem. The analysis complexifies any attempt to position the women as either colluding with the status quo or resisting it.
Please note that this thesis is read-only and is not to be duplicated in anyway.