Performance and Politics International (PPi) Research Centre

A post-disciplinary grouping of scholars from arts and social science departments in Aberystwyth established around the intersection of performance and politics.

(Left) The Bobby Sands Memorial Race, Eddie Ladd, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2009. Credit: Keith Morris


From cross-departmental research group to university interdisciplinary research centre

The Performance and Politics Research Group ran as a cross‐departmental Research Group from 2007 to 2013, co‐funded by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies (TFTS) and International Politics. It hosted a regular Distinguished Speaker Lecture and Seminar programme plus a one‐day symposium annually. In spring 2013, the Research Group put in a proposal to create a University-wide interdisciplinary Research Centre, in accordance with Aberystwyth’s Strategic Plan. The new Centre, Performance and Politics International (PPi), was approved by Senate and Council and established in September 2013.

PPi Aims:

  • To provide a focussed and coherent context for interdisciplinary work in performance and politics, and in particular the interface between political aesthetics and aesthetic politics operative in both fields of enquiry
  • To enable the development of transformative research methods and critical/creative practices appropriate to the investigation of the dynamic intersection and complex relationship between performance and politics
  • To offer a sustainable and effective environment for growing and supporting post-graduate research in performance and politics, allowing for the co-supervision of research students and the sharing of research projects
  • To enhance public engagement with research in performance and politics through the programming of open-access, mixed-format events in collaboration with public-facing partners
  • To extend publication opportunities in performance and politics alongside the promotion of practice-based research enquiries

Publications and postgraduate programmes

In 2013‐14, PPi published a major edited volume, with our distinguished speakers as contributors. Edited by Jenny Edkins and Adrian Kear, the volume is described by Vivienne Jabri, King's College, London, as: "A brilliantly executed and creative collaboration. The product is not just a contribution to discourses on politics and aesthetics, but a productive mobilisation of what Edkins and Kear call 'cross-talk'. The critical methodologies that emerge are used to explore core questions such as warfare and political protest." The centre put forward two external funding bids: one for a £2m AHRC grant and another for an ESRC PhD studentship. We also attracted a co‐supervised PhD student, funded by the Norwegian Government.

Our MA programme, MA Politics, Media and Performance, (coordinated by Professor Adrian Kear) ran for the first time in 2013‐14. The research centre resources and activities directly benefit Masters students in the programme as well as TFTS and International Politics Doctoral students with an interest in aesthetics, politics and performance. The departments of Theatre, Film and Television Studies and International Politics also offer a number of related MA programmes coordinated and taught by PPi convenors and others including: MA Postcolonial Politics (coordinated by Professor Jenny Edkins), MA Critical International Politics (coordinated by Dr. Inanna Hamati-Ataya) and MA Practising Performance (coordinated by Dr Karoline Gritzner). The centre also provides a platform for students funded under the University’s Doctoral Career Development Scholarship (DCDS) scheme to work as research assistants since 2014-2015 until present.

Distinguished Speaker Series and seminars

Funded by TFTS and International Politics, in 2015-16 our speakers included Dr Debbie Lisle, Queen's University Belfast, Prof Robbie Shilliam, Queen Mary University of London and Dr Véronique Pin-Fat, Univeristy of Manchester. In 2015 we also held a half-day symposium on National Theatre Wales production of ILIAD with Directors Prof Emeritus Mike Pearson and Dr Mike Brookes. In past programmes, such as in 2014‐15, we hosted as Distinguished Speakers Dr Claire MacDonald, University of the Arts London; Professor Mike Pearson, Aberystwyth University; Professor Vienne Jabri, Kings College, London; Professor Maaike Bleeker, Utrecht University; Dr Sophie Nield, Royal Holloway, and Dr Nick Vaughan-Williams, Warwick University. We also organised fortnightly film screenings and informal discussion events. In 2013-14, we held a highly successful one‐day symposium, Decolonising the Academy/Reanimating Collaboration, attended by 51 people, split between International Politics and TFTS, with a smattering of geographers and several practitioners. Our speakers included Dr Meera Sabaratnam, Politics and International Studies, SOAS, London, and Professor Chris Weedon, Head of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University.

Current events and collaborative links

In 2016-17, our Distinguished Speaker Series continue, and in addition we will hold workshops, Symposia and exhibitions at Aberystwyth University.

In Sept 2016, the PPi is organising a Symposium on Quarantine's Quartet in conjunction with Aberystwyth's Theatre, Film and Television Studies Department (TFTS). A keynote lecture by Prof Adrian Kear will open the Symposium and speakers include members of the Quarantine creative team as well as performers and spectators of the Quartet.

Our 2016-17 Distinguished Speakers so far include Prof Naeem Inayatullah, Ithaca and Professor Himadeep Muppidi, Vassar; Dr Simon Bayly, Roehampton; and Dr Jenny Hughes, University of Manchester.

We are very excited to be sponsoring the Huellas de la Memoria exhibition at Aberystwyth in April/May 2017 and will host an opening Symposium on the exhbition, which brings the stories of those searching for missing peoples in Mexico. We will also collaborate with the 2017 textiles exhibition "Stitched Voices of Resistance" on Conflict Textiles that is coming to Aber between March and May 2017. In addition, Dr Karen Tucker and Dr Matthew Brown from Bristol University will be visiting us to talk about the The Quipu Project that has recently launched and that enables the voices of those affected by forced sterilisations in Peru to be heard and responded to anywhere in the world. 

Other international connections include the University of Queensland’s Visual Politics Research Cluster and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, New York. PPi’s links with Warwick’s Politics and Performance Network were consolidated by Professor Shirin Rai’s visit in 2013 and Professor Emeritus Mike Pearson’s and Professor Adrian Kear’s keynotes at Warwick conferences in 2014. The PPi Distinguished Speaker Lecture by Dr Nick Vaughan‐Williams in 2014 further cemented that connection, leading directly to an ESRC funding bid. 

Contributors to our Distinguished Speaker Series come from all over the world and these and other collaborative links have been central to our success, enabling us to develop synergies and vocabularies for interdisciplinary collaboration and establish Aberystwyth as a centre for interdisciplinary research in performance and politics.

 (Centre) The Bobby Sands Memorial Race, Eddie Ladd, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2009. Credit: Keith Morris