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Theatre and War

Nandita Dinesh

2. Where

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The Insider-Outsider Hyphen

Turning up at a location and offering help can often be more of a hindrance than a help. Know the situation, know the role you can play and know that sometimes others can do a better job because of location, language, culture and so on. Also remember it is “easy” in so many ways to be drawn to a war zone, or a country hit by disaster — the need for help is clear and obvious... however, in doing so we often forget the troubles at our own doorstep, the problems of the country in which we live and where we have the easy location, the language and cultural awareness. We do not need to look across borders and oceans to find a desperate need for this kind of work and sadly as so many do so they fail to hear the desperate plea for help closer to home (Abdunnur and Hartley in Balfour, Hughes and Thompson, 2009a: 144)

1The three components to intentionality that were discussed in the previous chapter might become points of departure from which a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner can better choose their site of intervention. While it is common to conceptualize theatrical interventions with a location already in mind — a choice that is driven by personal interests, academic goals, and other circumstances — I wonder if choosing a geographical site for a theatre-in-war intervention might best follow an articulation of intention. Regardless of how a site of intervention is chosen though, the concepts of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’, considered in this chapter, remain a central concern. My intention here is to put forward an approach that activates and analyses the links between these two concepts, so that they might, in turn, become a lens through which informed choices about location might be made. Since it ‘is stating the obvious to say that any workshop facilitator in a conflict situation is not some neutral arbiter between the participants and the issues that they present’ and because the ‘facilitator has the power to direct the focus of the inquiry’ (Thompson, 2003: 185), my proposal in this chapter is to look at the hyphen between insider and outsider, and to consider the particular kinds of inside-ness and outside-ness that might benefit or limit specific framings of intention. By creating a conversation between the positioning of the practitioner-researcher and the previous chapter’s proposals for intention, this chapter seeks to put forward considerations that I have come to as a result of the trajectory in my own work; considerations that will be spoken to in the Notes from the field.

2In an eloquent discussion about the multiplicity of identities and the ways in which a focus on singular identities can perpetuate conflict, Amartya Sen (2006: 99) speaks to the need for a ‘[d]ecolonization of the mind’ that ‘demands a firm departure from the temptation of solitary identities and priorities’. In this spirit of multiplicity, instead of looking at the simplistic binary between ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’, it might be more useful to look at the spaces in between the two categories and to explore how those in-between spaces might manifest on the ground in theatrical undertakings. As Michael Balfour, Jenny Hughes, and James Thompson (2009a: 305) have discussed, ‘the relation between “inside” and ‘”outside” needs further analysis’ since ‘the distinction is hard to disentangle and that all people apparently from “outside” one context are “inside” other frames of behaviour and cultural norms’. Therefore, especially in contexts of conflict that are ‘predicated on protecting insides from outsides’, the notions of outsider and insider ‘need to be carefully examined’ (ibid.). It is such an examination that forms the core of this chapter. However, before speaking to the spaces between being an insider and an outsider, and before considering the implications of these in-between spaces on a theatre practitioner-researcher’s choice of site, it is important to first speak broadly to the notions of outsider and insider. By setting up a ‘general’ framework for how these terms are used, I will then move on to exploring the spaces between them. I say that I will set up a ‘general’ framework for how these two terms are understood since there is a vast amount of scholarship, especially in the realms of philosophy and anthropology that deals with questions concerning insider-outsider positioning. While some of those ideas will be woven into the conversation in this chapter, the ‘general’ framework that I speak to here is the way in which I have encountered these terms being engaged with on the ground, in theatre-in-war practice.

3‘Generally’ speaking then, the term outsider might be used to refer to someone who has not had the lived experience of a particular context; in this case, when someone who is from outside a place of war — someone who, additionally, might never have had the lived experience of war — chooses to engage in a particular location of conflict. While I shall complicate this approach to being an outsider later in this chapter, the larger potential and limitations that come with this outsider status in a theatre-in-war project are important to discuss before the intricacies of this binary might be explored. For instance, one of the primary benefits that is said to arise from an outsider status is that such individuals ‘may be understood to be external to the forces that caused the war and therefore their intervention may suffer less from an association with a particular party to a conflict’ (Balfour, Hughes and Thompson, 2009a: 146). Because afforded a non-partisan affiliation in the first instance, aesthetic works ‘by someone who is not “of” the community can illuminate things about a community that are invisible to the people within it’ (Forsyth and Megson, 2009: 143). While the perspective of an outside eye can be useful in all kinds of settings, the objectivity afforded to an outsider becomes particularly relevant in a place of war where insiders very rarely have the opportunity to be non-partisan. Since familial affiliations to a conflict become as, if not, more important than an individual’s lived experience of war, it might be said that it is only someone who is from (and maintains a lineage from) outside a space of conflict who might be afforded an outsider perspective.

4In the process of creating the Documentary Theatre piece Twilight Los Angeles, Anna Deveare Smith (in ibid.: 145) — an African American artist dealing with race relations in the United States — ‘specifically requested a team of dramaturges because, as she explains: “I was afraid that my own ethnicity would tell this story about L.A. in a way that reduced it to black and white — that’ s what I knew about race in America, black and white.”’ In order to address this challenge, Smith speaks about her decision to invite a Japanese-American anthropologist, a journalist of Guatemalan descent, and an African American poet to join her team. As someone with the lived experience of the racial conflict that her work sought to perform, Smith’s considered approach to inviting outsider viewpoints was intended to capitalize on her colleagues not having had the same lived experience of race as herself. In a similar fashion, speaking to her theatrical work in Burundi in which she sought an engagement with armed rebels, Frederique Lecomte (in Balfour, Hughes and Thompson, 2009a: 185) shares the rebels’ comments to her, that “it is because you are white and because you are a woman that you can do what you are doing now because it would impossible for a Burundian, a Hutu or a Tutsi to do this, especially in this period”. Speaking further to the potential access afforded her by the outsider status, Lecomte suggests that the facets that make her an outsider might not only be her gender and race, but also the methodology with which she framed her interaction with the rebels i.e., the theatre.

5I would build on the second example to suggest that the avenues that are available to Lecomte in Burundi are not only because an outsider might have access to narratives and spaces that an insider does not. Rather, it is also because the cultural gap — if you will — might allow insider contributors more agency in choosing what they reveal. Consequently, the choice between concealment and revelation afforded to local contributors could become integral in allowing outsiders to take on volatile narratives — like Lecomte’s engagement with the Burundian rebels — since the local contributors might see themselves as having more agency in choosing what they share. This element of choice while certainly laying the ground for misunderstandings, evasions, and silences, could also create a more equal playing field in which the insider contributor and the outsider practitioner-researcher are equally (un)able to read the sub-text contained within each other’s words and embodiments. Caroline Humphrey (2007) speaks to this idea when discussing the challenges that arise from her being an insider to the communities she studied as part of her doctoral research. Humphrey (ibid.: 17) presents the conflicts she faced with interviewees who felt that they ‘had related such sensitive and controversial stories to me in virtue of my status as an insider’ and worried, when Humphrey replicated those words in print, that they had disclosed too much. Citing one particular interviewee who later said that “she would not have made such disclosures to an outside researcher” (ibid.), Humphrey’s experience allows us to pinpoint another benefit a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner’s positioning as an outsider.

6Given the undeniable space between the outsider and the communities in which they work, an outsider theatre-in-war practitioner researcher might be more attuned to ‘the limits placed on [their] seeing’ and thus, focus on ‘an area in which [they are] in a better position to account for what [they are seeing]’ (Bharucha, 1991: 747) — the area, in this context, being the theatre. In so doing, an outsider might be able to theorize about, and practice within, the spaces that are not relegated solely to those who have had a particular lived experience. And thus, by engaging with this space, the outsider might be able take on a ‘universal guilt’; where it is precisely ‘those who have not participated in that experience’ and ‘are outside this experience’ who might be best positioned to ‘carry on and pass on this universal guilt’ (Sarukkai, 2007a: 4048).

7This is not to say that there are only potential-filled possibilities when speaking of outsider theatre-in-war practitioner-researchers. Surely enough, the avenues that are outlined above are counterbalanced by the ways in which in an outsider does not and ‘cannot have the necessary sensibilities’ to cultivate an understanding of that which is situated ‘in the cultural values of the people’ that they interact with (Kusow, 2003: 592). While the risks of this cultural gap exist in any interaction or exchange that occurs in an increasingly intercultural world, in a place of war, this gap in understanding becomes particularly dangerous for the outsiders themselves, but more particularly for the outsider researcher-practitioner’s local collaborators. For example, if I were to create a piece of theatre with local artists that speaks to the ways in which their country’s armed forces have violated the human rights of civilians in that setting, what might be the repercussions for my civilian, insider colleagues when the project ends? While this question alludes to an obvious risk to physical safety that is ever present when creating theatrical work in response to war, one cannot also ignore the more subtle, neo-colonial power politics and ethical quagmires that additionally emerge when an outsider tries to give aesthetic shape to a conflict that he or she does not have the lived experience of. It is the risk of these historically and politically charged occurrences that has led to a visible, palpable anger that ‘is common to many if not all communities which exhibit a strong dislike to being objects of study by those who do not belong to that community’ (Sarukkai, 2007a: 4043). Although we might question the usefulness of this anger, and debate whether or not such a confrontational stance is justifiable in today’s world, we cannot discard the reality of that anger. The question that I ask myself then, when I consider myself an outsider to a particular context or situation is, if and how I might be re-creating problematic (neo-colonial) ripples simply with my presence within that space of conflict.

8Furthermore, in addition to the power dynamics that are implicit in the insider-outsider dynamic in a world damaged by legacies of colonialism, the notion of ‘choice’ is a core element in understanding possible antagonistic responses to an outsider. To be an insider, to have a particular lived experience implies that ‘there is no element of choice or freedom associated’ (ibid.: 4044–4045) with that experience. In this understanding of being an insider, one cannot have a lived experience of a war unless they have lived the various shades of the violence ‘with no choice to be otherwise’ (ibid.: 4045). Thus, as long as a theatre practitioner-researcher ‘has a choice to leave when the going gets tough, they cannot truly be insiders to a situation’ (ibid.). It is arguable then, that in addition to an insider being able ‘to decipher cultural signs and clues, and manage local and international agendas in a way that benefits those more adversely affected by war’ (Balfour, Hughes and Thompson, 2009a: 145–146), being an insider might sometimes be the most ethical way of creating aesthetic responses to war — since this insider, without the choice to leave, is faced with real consequences that many of us, when intervening as outsiders, cannot begin to comprehend.

9What draws an outsider, like me, to a place of war? While the rational arguments for researching and making theatre in places of war can certainly be articulated with much scholarly support, it is the irrational components to this decision — the components that are as inspiring as they are disturbing — that influence my aesthetic choices. In a majority of the works that I have created or had a part in creating over the years, I have tended to focus on the ‘darker’ issues that exist in the communities in question, and to give theatrical shape to themes of atrocity and pain. My own focus on ‘painful’ content as an outsider, a focus that I have found to be shared by other outsider theatre-in-war practitioner-researchers, differs from the opinions that James Thompson unearths when interviewing artists as part of the In Place of War project. In these interviews Thompson (2009b: 138) discovers that local, ‘insider’ artists frequently expressed a demand for a ‘theatre of beauty’ rather than a theatre that focused on the atrocity of war. In addition to insider artists being more sensitive to the risks of the work, it might be that an insider positioning offers a researcher-practitioner the ability to better ascertain the aesthetic needs of a particular context. This is not to say that it is impossible for outsider practitioners to come to those discoveries themselves; just as it cannot be said that insider artists will always have their finger on the pulse of their communities’ needs and preferences. However, what is worth considering in the debate between the art that outsiders create in places of war versus that which insiders create, is the magnitude of the risk which might attend the mistakes that will inevitably be made by all of us — insiders and outsiders alike.

10The potential filled avenues that come with being an insider are countered by their own complications, of course. Returning to Humphrey’s (2007) writing about her doctoral work in an organization in which she was an insider, the challenges of being ‘too much of an insider’ are eloquently discussed. Humphrey (ibid.: 16) demonstrates that these challenges arise in instances of insiders attempting to research and write about that which occurs with their fellow insiders because researcher-insiders are not simply ‘reflecting upon phenomena’ but also possibly playing a role in the production of the phenomena in the first place. The insider who is creating work with and about their own communities might become ‘a kind of “suspicious insider”’; since such insiders might have access to networks and frames of reference that are less accessible to their fellow insider counterparts (Kusow, 2003: 594).

11In addition to the suspicion that insiders might be subject to when seeking to create practice-as-research within their own communities, insider researchers might also find themselves cornered by cultural norms that govern interpersonal relationships in that context. For instance, in speaking to his work with Somali immigrant communities in Canada, Abdi M. Kusow (ibid.: 597) discusses the gender dynamics that might enable ‘a Western, outsider, female ethnographer’ to have better access to Somali women immigrants compared to a male Somali researcher like himself. Speaking to the ways in which his being an insider to the Somali immigrant community was overshadowed by his masculinity when he sought to speak with Somali women, Kusow’s statement is what I will use to transition into looking at the space between insider and outsider; to looking at the hyphen.

Notes from the field
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda has been documented extensively. It is well known that almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during this 100-day period. It is also known, albeit less so, that the genocide was one painful instance in the trajectory of a long and conflicted relationship between two particular groups of people in the land of a thousand hills. Also well-known and documented is the international community’s lack of intervention during the Rwandan genocide, with Bill Clinton’s (1998) apology on a subsequent visit to Rwanda becoming a symbolic reminder of the pervasiveness of the shame and guilt that we (the international community) must contend with after the events of 1994. Rwanda’s attempt to instate a community-based, traditional, grassroots system to deal with justice after the genocide — the Gacaca — is also something that has been documented and analysed. There has been an incredible amount of research and practice created in, for, and about Rwanda since 1994. Rwanda post-1994 has seen a tremendous influx of well-meaning outsiders. People like me, who go to Rwanda with grandiose notions of what we can do ‘to help’.
When I went to Rwanda in 2007, I realized that I was not alone in my guilt for what had happened there in 1994. That I was not alone in thinking that my particular skills and talents would ‘help’ Rwanda. That I was not alone in thinking that what I had to offer would, in some way, ‘make up’ for the grotesque fashion in which many of us were complicit in the events of 1994. I believed that I could use my art, the theatre, to somehow contribute towards Rwanda’s road to recovery…
My first major undertaking in Rwanda — as I mentioned in the previous chapter — was being asked by a NGO to design and implement a theatre programme for the youth that they worked with; youth who were all survivors of 1994. Envisioned as being a major activity that would target the participants of the NGO’s youth clubs, I was tasked with building a yearlong theatre-training programme between 2007 and 2008 that would culminate in a theatre festival in April 2008, during the annual commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda. As such, I collaborated with a Rwandan colleague to design a year’s worth of theatre workshops. Although I couldn’t be there for these workshops, since I was going back and forth from graduate school in New York City, I was present for the festival that served as the culmination to the yearlong program; a festival that took a devised theatre performance to three different towns in Rwanda.
In addition to being a designer and facilitator of the training programme and the festival, I was also tasked with raising the funds for this initiative. In this capacity, apart from reaching out to the international donors who already worked with this NGO, I was asked to put together a fundraising strategy for the theatre training programme and festival. In considering who could fund this work, I asked myself if I had access to a certain group of funders that my Rwandan colleagues did not. And after considering this for a while, I realized that I indeed had access to one such group: the Indian community in Kigali. Realizing through a number of accidental interactions that what I represented in Rwanda, in terms of my national identity, would automatically facilitate a strong entry into a financially well-off Diaspora community that is known for maintaining strong ties to members of its group, I reached out to the Indian business community in Rwanda. And soon enough, between funds and in-kind support, we had the funding in place to run the program.
It was one of the first times that I became aware of how one of the facets of my identity could become a strategy in a theatre-in-war project. While considering elements of one’s identity as strategic tools with which to fundraise might not be the most politically correct way to describe what I realised, I call this realization a strategy because targeting my ‘Indian-ness’ became a tool with which I was able to use my ‘inside’ -ness within one community group in Rwanda to work toward an initiative with another community to which I was more outsider that insider. This is not to say of course that I was a complete insider to the Indian community in Rwanda. Far from it, actually, since the kind of work I did and the kind of circles I moved in were not ‘Indian’ in the way that a majority of the Diaspora in that community functioned. And yet, being Indian played a role in how I was able to fund the training project and festival with the NGO in Rwanda. A positioning that led one of my Rwandan colleagues to mention, offhand, after a meeting with one of our Indian funders — “Huh, I didn’t know Indians could be nice”…
So, we raised the money and the resources. We launched a yearlong theatre-training programme. We organized a festival during the commemoration of the genocide in April 2008; a festival that consisted of a two week devised theatre workshop with a visiting Ugandan director and a tour of the piece that was created to three different towns in Rwanda. The first year and the lead up to the festival were marked with moments of success. Moments in which I felt as though I was doing what I went to Rwanda to do. To make a difference. To change something… “This is the first time during commemoration that I have not been sad”, one of the young people told me in the week leading up to the festival. A statement that infused me with optimism.
When we came back to the hotel after our penultimate performance of The Question Mark (2008) — the piece that was created and toured as part of the theatre festival — I saw all the young actors huddled together on a veranda debating furiously. I went over to my Rwandan colleague, sat down, and waited for her to translate a furiously intense conversation that was happening in Kinyarwanda; a conversation that I could not understand. From the bits and pieces that she translated for me during the discussion, this is what I understood: a member of the audience had approached some of our actors after the performance and asked them about the significance behind the painted image of a question mark that the actors had placed on a drum at the end of the play. While the question mark, to us, was used to represent the uncertainty of what would happen next in the narrative of the performance, this audience member informed our actors that since the drum represents power in Rwandese culture — and thus, could be seen as representing the government of the country — by placing a question mark on a drum we were in fact (implicitly) questioning the Rwandan government. “Are you going to perform this the same way in the capital, in Kigali?” the actors were asked, “Are you sure that it is a good decision?”
The actors went back and forth about the question mark on the drum.
Did they agree with what the audience member had said?
Did the drum really represent the government?
What if it did?
Why had they not caught this before?
Was the audience member mistaken?
What if government officials came to the show in Kigali?
What would happen to them?
The Ugandan director who had been had invited to direct the piece attempted to draw parallels between his home country and Rwanda, talking about the ways in which a controversial aesthetic choice might be handled in his capital city. But of course, Rwanda and Uganda are completely different places.
An hour into the discussion, unable to engage verbally with the increasingly heated conversation, I went back to my room and waited for my Rwandan colleague to come and find me when the conversation had settled down. She came into the room later, much later it seemed, and talked to me about people she knew who had been imprisoned in Rwanda for making ‘mistakes’ similar to ours. “But is this really a serious thing?” I asked her in my naiveté, “It’s just a painted question mark on a drum!” “Maybe, maybe not”, she said. “But at the end of this project you’ll return to New York and we have to live here. We need to think about this carefully. We’re Rwandan”.
By the time the festival ended, I had decided to move to Rwanda after graduate school; a move that I intended as being for the foreseeable future. Partnering up with two colleagues — one Rwandan and one non-Rwandan — we drafted a proposal for an ambitious project. We were going to start a cultural centre in Rwanda that would focus on the use of theatre in the post-conflict reconstruction of the nation by creating professional productions and conducting community-based theatre workshops. I remain deliberately vague here, about where my colleagues were from and where the funding came from, since my reflections on the project do not necessarily present them in the most positive light… The road to setting up this cultural centre and beginning to work on our first production was full of many anticipated struggles — dealing with interminable amounts of paperwork, networking, grant proposals, and the like. Dealing with all of this while also attempting to conduct auditions and get a cast and crew together for our first performance was therefore extremely stressful; especially stressful on a new working relationship between three partners who knew each other, but certainly not enough well enough to enable us to find ways to constructively channel our collective stress.
One particularly stressful work day was set to culminate with an audition for our first production, which was an adaptation of a two person play in which a mother comes face to face with the soldier who raped and killed her daughter during a war. With the casting of the actress playing the mother under our belt, my colleagues and I were on the lookout for a young, male Rwandan actor to play the soldier. At the end of this stressful day, on a veranda in one of the more elite neighbourhoods of Kigali, we auditioned a talented young actor. The young man finished his audition and left my non-Rwandan colleague and me on the veranda, discussing our impressions of the audition. After discussing the quality of the young actor’s work and how we thought his talents might apply to our production, “What do you think he looks like?”, my colleague asked me. I recall not understanding the question at first… “What does he look like?”, I probably repeated. “You know, do you think he looks”, she lowered her voice, “like someone from that tribe?” I remember an uncomfortable silence. I don’t remember my response. I just remember a deep sense of unease with that question. Was my colleague simply being honest about noticing differences in physical appearance while most others, while aware of such elements, would not discuss them for fears of being politically incorrect? Or was my colleague stating something potentially incendiary; something that was completely unethical for us to be addressing as outsiders to the Rwandan context? I tried to draw parallels between her question and my own lived experience.
What if I went to an audition in India, for a play that was directed by people who were outsiders to the context?
What if these directors were creating a play in my city, a city that has known periods of violent animosity between Hindus and Muslims?
What if this play sought to perform some of these conflicts toward helping with some sort of recovery or reconstruction?
And then, what if these directors tried to decide if I looked Hindu or Muslim in my audition?
Drawing this parallel unsettled me immensely.
In Rwanda, with more elements placing me on the outside rather than the inside, I was often at a loss. While I was able to, at a very basic level, assume an understanding and connection with the context in which I worked, given my goals to create ‘change’ and to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction through theatre, my positioning — or my way of negotiating my positioning — just did not allow this to happen. The kind of commitment that it would have taken for me to alter that positioning… to have learned Kinyarwanda; to have made a more concerted effort to not get stuck in expatriate circles; well, I was just not willing or able to put in that hard work.
If I had known then what I know now, about the ways in which a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner’s position on the insider-outsider continuum might affect the execution of the work, I possibly would not have chosen to work in Rwanda in the first place. But even after making that choice, of choosing Rwanda as my site of intervention:
Could I have been more specific as to the community group within Rwanda that I worked with?
Could I have chosen to work in a location within the Rwandan context in which my particular positioning on the insider-outsider spectrum might have contained more potential to accomplish my intentions?
Should I have chosen to work in a community with which I shared more insider elements, instead of working with an NGO that worked with young survivors of the genocide and thus a group to which I was more of an outsider than an insider?
What would have happened had I worked in a Rwandan space where language and/or class and/or nationality would have allowed for a more ‘honest’ dialogue?
What if I had worked with the expatriate community of non-Rwandans living in the nation?
What if I had worked only with Indian Diaspora living in Rwanda?
What if I had worked with students at the international school in Kigali, who spoke fluent English, shared cultural references with my own ‘international’ background, and came from families that were financially sound?
Would I have been better positioned to create change by working with/in a community in which I more obviously embodied the hyphen between insider and outsider rather than working with a group in which I lay far closer to the outsider end of the continuum?

12While the binary opposition between outsider and insider is a simplistic polarity that allows us to ‘generally’ consider the potential and limitations contained within these two positions, the reality is far more complex. As Kusow (2003: 597) has argued, the ‘relationship between researcher and participant cannot be determined a priori such that a researcher can be categorically designated either an insider or an outsider’. Therefore, it is necessary to further an understanding of positioning by moving beyond a static binary and by looking for intersections that might do a better job of addressing, and possibly explaining, ‘the researcher’ s transformative experiences in the field’ (ibid.). Since the ethnographic field ‘is an arena for intersubjective interaction’, researcher statuses emerge ‘from the interaction between the researcher and the participants as well as the social and political situation within which the interaction occurs’ (Ergun and Erdemir, 2009: 17). As such ‘insider/outsider distinction lacks acknowledgment that insiders and outsiders’ are most often situational, and depend ‘on the prevailing social, political, and cultural values of a given social context’ (Kusow, 2003: 592). In this vein, individuals cannot be permanently located as insider or outsider based on a single determining factor. Rather, individuals might be said to ‘occupy a set of social statuses such that one individual can occupy an insider status in one moment and an outsider in another’ (ibid.). Going back to Sen’s ideas regarding departures from singular identities, very rarely (if ever) can we say with certainty that someone is a complete outsider or complete insider to a particular context. More often than not there will be elements that give a simultaneously inside and outside quality to a person’s presence in any given context.

13In the Indian context M. N. Srinivas (in Sarukkai, 2007b: 1408) speaks about the ways in which an Indian anthropologist studying Indian tribals might embody what he calls a ‘self-in-the-other’. Since the Indian anthropologist occupies a similar cultural universe as the tribals Srinivas contends that, for these anthropologists, the Other might not be as stark as when, say, an anthropologist from the UK engages with the same community. That said, I do not think it can be claimed that all British anthropologists will be complete outsiders when working with tribal communities in India. Rather, just as the Indian anthropologist operates within a frame of ‘self-in-the-other’, the British anthropologist might function through a lens of ‘other-in-the-self’. Sarukkai (ibid.) provides an interesting corollary to this discussion of Otherness by proposing the idea that the very word that is used for ‘outsider’ in a particular context might have implications for how outside and insideness are conceptualized. For example, Sarukkai looks at the term ‘other’ in Indian languages and states that the ‘commonly used word for the other in Tamil, Kannada or Malayalam, for example, is “one more”’; a phrase that has ‘different connotations’ from the use of the English term ‘other’ (ibid.). Sarukkai (ibid.) uses this idea of ‘one more’ to suggest that in addition to quantifying a notion of otherness, this particular turn of phrase might imply that ‘the other is nothing but one more of the self’ in this particular cultural universe. As such, Sarukkai (ibid.) claims, that ‘for a person steeped in this tradition, this does make a qualitative difference in constructing the other’ and becomes an important building block in how the insider-outsider relationship might be constructed. Thus, the space between outsider and insider is not only influenced by more obvious markers of identity, a particular culture’s understanding of what Otherness and belonging signify also shapes it.

Notes from the field
Eres Veracruzana?
Are you from Veracruz?
In Mexico City, I was often mistaken for Mexican. Until I opened my mouth of course, and my accented, error-ridden Spanish flowed out. At that point, whomever thought I was Mexican would quickly realize their mistake. But I could still speak the language. I could still ‘pass’ for being more insider than outsider in Mexico. And this positioning gave me immense fluidity. The kind of fluidity that I did not have in Rwanda. It was in Mexico that I realized the importance of language in allowing a complete outsider to become a little more of an insider. Although I was ‘foreign’, although I was an ‘outsider’ in many ways, speaking Spanish opened up many worlds to me. Being a linguistic insider made so much more possible in Mexico.
This might seem like such a simple revelation. Of course it helps to speak the local language. But after experiences in East Africa where most expatriates I met did not speak the local language; being an outsider in Rwanda where I did not speak the local language; this revelation in Mexico was significant. Up until my time in Mexico, it was only in certain contexts in India and in Anglophone spaces that I had spoken the ‘local’ language. But those were languages I took for granted. Those were the languages I had grown up with. After all multilingual, urban Indians are not an anomaly. Working in a more obviously ‘foreign’ language then, in Spanish, a language that I started learning as an adolescent, was a much more poignant experience.
Being a linguistic insider enabled me to work with small community theatre groups
In Puebla
In Chiconcuac
In Mexico City
Being a linguistic insider diluted some of the complications that came from being an outsider
An outsider who passed as Mexican.
Five of us — three Mexican women, a Brazilian woman, and I — wanted to experiment with theatrical interventions in public spaces in Mexico City. We decided to get together once a week, to ‘play’. At each of these meetings one of us proposed a topic and a location and the entire group created a theatrical response to the proposed stimuli (we conceptualized and performed a public intervention/action/performance in the span of an hour). One evening, someone in the group proposed that we create a piece about being outsiders/immigrants in Mexico City (the topic), on the subway (the location). Here was our plan: we would get on a subway car at the nearest station. One of us would speak aloud in the car — “We are outsiders to this city. We are lonely. We could really use a hug”. In a subway system that was increasingly inhabited by people who did not make eye contact with each other, we wanted to see if our audiences would give us a hug. “Wait, though”, I said to my colleagues, utterly uncomfortable with the notion of hugging strangers. “I’m really sorry, maybe it’s my having grown up in India, maybe it’s just me, but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of hugging strangers. Especially men. Physical contact with strange men… I can’t do it”. My colleagues indulged my discomfort. “It’s ok”, they said. “You just make the announcement when we get on the train. We’ll do the hugging. You can just stand back”.
So we got on the first train. “Buenas tardes”, I said, “Nosotras somos extranjeras en esta ciudad y necesitamos sentir una conexión con la gente de México. ¿Alguien nos podría dar un abrazo?” I made the announcement asking for a hug and before I knew it, before I could steel myself, someone, a young man, came up to hug me. ME. The person who did not want to be hugged.
Perhaps it was because I looked Mexican.
Perhaps it was because I spoke in Spanish.
Maybe it sounded like I really needed a hug.
But I got hugged.
And I hugged back.

14We might further this understanding of the hyphen between insider and outsider by looking at bell hooks (pen name for Gloria Jean Watkins) (in Giwa, 2015: 322), who alludes to this continuum in the context of race when she speaks about ‘subjective racial experiences’ that depend ‘on the degree of darkness of the colour of the skin of black women’. In a similar vein, we might consider the positioning of researchers from the ‘Global South’ (like myself) who return as insiders to their ‘home’ countries only to realize that the access that we have had to resources that many of our counterparts lack, makes us outsiders in our own right. Building on this idea Aisha Giwa draws from Sofia Villenas and Shahnaz Khan (in ibid.) to add that ‘as “native” ethnographers within Western institutions, we are potentially both the colonizer and the colonized’ and that the outsider does not have to be ‘white or male but may be a racialised woman who sits on the border of an awareness of the male academy, liberal feminism, continued forms of colonialism and the many other identities that makes her other’. Given these dimensions to the insider-outsider conversation, a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner who is looking to choose a site of intervention based on their intentionality might be better served by considering the ‘insider-outsider hyphen’ (Humphrey, 2007: 12), rather than looking at the two terms as being in opposition to each other. A term that Humphrey (ibid.: 13) adapts from Michelle Fine’s (1994) account of ‘working the self-other hyphen’, the insider-outsider hyphen is a concept that I propose as being significant for theatre-in-war researchers and practitioners so that we might ‘take charge of the hyphen rather than becoming hostage to it’ (Brayboy and Deyhle, 2000). Looking beyond the insider-outsider binary, toward the insider-outsider hyphen and how that hyphen might be defined, could become immensely useful to a theatre-in-war practitioner-researcher enacting their intention in a particular place of war.

15So how might this hyphen be explored in practice? Martyn Hammersley and Paul Atkinson argue (in ibid.: 165) that it might be best to intentionally occupy a ‘marginal position’ in which the researcher-practitioner is neither ‘completely outsider nor completely insider’. When choosing a place of intervention then, the intention of a theatre practitioner-researcher might be better implemented if they contemplate a careful poise ‘between familiarity and strangeness’ (ibid.). By choosing a site of war in which to theatrically intervene by looking at the permutations and combinations of their own familiarity and strangeness to that context, of being both outside and inside, the theatre practitioner-researcher might better live ‘simultaneously in two worlds, that of participation and that of research’ (ibid.). Developing an understanding of the hyphen so as to create a nuanced positioning involves a consideration of multiple factors: an understanding of the interaction between more obvious identity markers like nationality, race, and gender and the less obvious markers like language, sexuality, and shared lived experiences. Ultimately, therefore, when a theatre practitioner-researcher attempts to choose a site of intervention based on their intention, it is not a simple case of slotting ourselves as complete outsiders or insiders. Rather, it is about locating the kind of inside-ness/outside-ness that might be most useful and ethical in the enactment of our intention on the ground. As such, this continuum of the insider-outsider dialectic — the hyphen — is what frames the subsequent discussion in this chapter. Are there particular markers of being insider-outsider to a particular context that might benefit a particular intentionality in a theatre-in-war intervention?

Notes from the field
Being Indian has always been a big part of my identity. At fifteen, at an international high school, my Indian-ness began to be brought to my attention. At seventeen, as an international student in the United States, my nationality came to define me some more — questions like “Why do you speak English?” and “Do y’all still ride on elephants?” stoked the fire of my new found patriotism. At twenty-four, it was this Indian-ness that brought me home after years of nomadism. Coimbatore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Paud, Thrissur, Mussoorie, Dimapur, Kupwara, Udaipur, Imphal, Kohima, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhavnagar, Nasik, Madras, Anantnag. Each of these places was a part of this all-encompassing ‘India’ to which I felt I had to return. But after spending my first month in Kashmir, I realized that this list of places needed to be edited.
“It’s only for the Indian government and armed forces”, I was told. “We have nothing against Indians like you”. Indians like me. Indians who are nationalistic in our own right. Who pay taxes to support that government and those armed forces that you say oppress you. Maybe you don’t intend to include me in that statement that has been spray-painted across many walls in the city. But somewhere, somehow, I am one of those Indian dogs. And it is impossible for me to not take that personally. As evidence of my own culpability within what is often described in Kashmir as an ‘occupation’.
I had never heard Kashmir being described as an occupation before my trip there in 2012. I had heard about the movement for a free Kashmir but had assumed, in all my ignorance, that this was just one more group like those who were pro-India or pro-Pakistan. One more group to add to the confusion surrounding Kashmir. There is so much I didn’t and don’t know about ‘Azadi’, the movement toward independence that most of the Kashmiris I met clamour for. There were of course the few who greeted me as a fellow Indian, who said their freedom fighters were a bunch of clueless agitation junkies. But I cannot deny that these pro-India folks were a minority amongst the Kashmiris I met.
The more I see it, the more I say it to myself, the less it affects me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
I look at the army officers who patrol the streets, who man the check posts, who stand around beautiful rice fields for ‘security’ reasons. They look so young. So, so, young. And I wonder. Do these boys know what they are fighting for? “Do you know what you are here for?” I wanted to ask these soldiers. But I couldn’t seem to do it. Because I didn’t know what that one action could trigger. In an atmosphere that was fraught with tension and fragility, every action had a potentially disastrous consequence.
The snow-kissed hills and cloudy peaks surround what seems to be an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. “What are you doing here?”, “Why do you want to teach theatre?”, “What are you getting out of this?” Three weeks in the valley felt like a year. Surrounded by a claustrophobic male gaze, it was difficult not to attribute paternalistic social customs to the shortcomings of a particular religious philosophy. Difficult to not look at everything, from washing clothes to taking a bus, through the gendered lens of being the ‘weaker’ sex. Difficult to just be… The girls I worked with, the men and women I interacted with, everyone, seemed constantly unsure of what was acceptable and what was not. Is this against the religion? Or the culture? Or the politics? Or the government? Or the freedom movement? The categories overflowed:
The twenty-nine year old who loves pelting stones at soldiers from the Indian army.
The fifty-five year old National School of Drama graduate who runs a theatre academy.
The thirty year old who sells guns to the same army that his closest friends detest.
The teenage girls who love dancing. But cannot in public.
The thirty year old who detests the Indian government but understands his arms dealer friend’s business.
The twenty-two year old woman who single-handedly runs a home for vulnerable girls.
The six year old who screams “Azadi” (Freedom) during the rehearsal of a play. Completely out of context.
The twenty-four year old police officer whose biggest problem is the antiquated police jeep he has.
The thirty-year-old journalist who talks about censorship.
The sixty-four year old who has a case pending against him at the Supreme Court. For sedition.
The fifty-eight year old who hates my blue jeans.
The sixty-one year old Kashmiri Pandit who can never return home.
I went on my first trip to Kashmir thinking of it as a recce — a first trip to lay the ground for future theatre projects. And like many of my other experiences, I woke up every morning with one question: “What can theatre really do here?” Having taught theatre for a year prior to this trip to Kashmir, I had come realize the value of long-term, multi-disciplinary approaches to learning. Just theatre itself can’t do much. Just a three-week project can’t do much. But when art understands the wider context in which it is situated, and uses its position within that context to negotiate the possibilities it contains, that is when things begin to happen.
So I returned from that trip to Kashmir with a little more certainty.
Certainty that there was/is a space for my theatre work there.
Certainty that there were complexities about the context that I had not even begun to understand.
Certainty about my own insignificance in all of it.
And certainty that this experience, this journey, had challenged every part of my being — the part that is defined by my Indian-ness, by my femininity, by my being an artist.
After years of wandering around conflict and post-conflict zones, observing from the vantage point of an outsider — here was a war that was personal.
There were possible consequences to every one of my actions: writing about the experience, going back to Kashmir, making a theatre piece about Azadi, staying silent.
Every action had a consequence now.
A possible price attached.
Suddenly, here was a war that was personal.

16In the earlier chapter on intention I presented three spaces on the theatre-making/performance timeline where a researcher-practitioner might focus their attention: the creative process, the aesthetic outcomes, and the post-process/post-performance outcomes. Furthermore, I presented the possibility of nuancing a theatre-in-war project’s intention by looking at intention/response interactions. So how might these ideas from the realm of intention interact with the insider-outsider hyphen and thus enable us, as theatre-in-war researcher-practitioners, to make better-informed decisions about where we choose to work? Are there particular qualities to being inside or outside a context that become more or less important based on specific intentions?

17Let us begin an exploration of these questions by considering theatre-in-war projects that have an intentional focus on the creative process (rather than a focus on the aesthetic performance or outcomes). Theatre-in-war projects that focus on the creative process of a theatrical intervention tend to use devised and collaborative theatre methodologies as their pedagogy; that is, such process-focussed work tends to prize the ways in which safe and creative spaces might be created for collaborators in conflict zones. Although many of these interventions also intend to result in performances and/or outcomes, a primary focus in this intentional approach is how the work is created. So, if a theatre-in-war practitioner-researcher begins with the intention to focus on creative processes, what elements might most influence the insider-outsider hyphen and thus shape the practitioner-researcher’s decision of where to intervene? My experience suggests that in a collaborative/devised methodological approach, given that the work is predicated on the creation of safe and non-hierarchical spaces of communication, it might be a linguistic insider positioning that is most integral. While markers like gender, nationality, and race also intersect with how power manifests in the rehearsal room — and I do not seek to imply that language is the only influential factor in devised work — I have come to wonder if, in devised theatre settings, the insider positioning that is gained by possessing a facility with the local language potentially overshadows the challenges presented by other kinds of outsider markers. For instance, given my intentions in Rwanda, the degree to which my outside-ness manifested might have been entirely different had I spoken Kinyarwanda. If I had spoken the language, although my nationality, race, and non-lived experience of 1994 would have still made me an outsider, that linguistic ability might have allowed a certain ease of interaction during the creative processes with the young people I was working with.

18Furthermore, language might have also enabled me to engage with my spectators’ feedback in a more nuanced fashion; feedback that was integral to understanding what kind of ‘change’ my work was actually creating. Instead, in having to rely on translators and translation in every context that I intervened, I was unable to engage with my co-creators or spectators with the depth that was necessary to actually ‘change’ anything. This does not mean that I should not have gone to Rwanda at all; it does mean that that I should have been more conscious about the sites within Rwanda where my linguistic repertoire might have allowed for non-hierarchical spaces of collaborative work. When I say ‘sites within Rwanda’, I want to draw the reader’s attention to an added consideration that emerges here: of which local language one speaks. In Rwanda, it might be argued that French is also a local language and indeed, when I first went to Rwanda I attempted to learn this language. However, it soon became apparent to me what while French would give me access to certain circles in Kigali, this language was certainly not one that many of my collaborators in the NGO, or my spectators, had a facility with. When I highlight the importance of language therefore, I mean a careful consideration of which language (and perhaps, which dialect) we have access to. Thus, I would propose that a theatre-in-war practitioner-researcher who is looking to focus on process-oriented work might benefit from choosing a site of intervention that is defined by their linguistic capabilities.

19If language becomes a determining factor for a theatre-in-war project that seeks to focus on the process, what might be the markers of inside and outside-ness that become important in an emphasis on the aesthetic outcomes? To answer this question, I consider projects in which the material or text for a particular theatre-in-war project might have been chosen prior to a practitioner-researcher being invited to direct the piece. In such instances, where the generation of the material does not fall within the purview of the practitioner-researcher but rather, their entire realm of attention is the aesthetic shape that is given to the final performance, I would argue that other cultural markers become relevant. Although language can become an important consideration in such a focus — in fact, I have heard a few directors speak about their heightened aesthetic sensibilities and choices when they do not speak the local language — the hierarchical power dynamic that manifests when a theatre director is invited to put a performance together, when the material has already been chosen, makes cultural makers of power shape the inside/outside-ness of the practitioner-researcher.

20For instance, during my time in Mexico, I was commissioned to direct a production in the town of Jantetelco. I was given an existing script and as the invited guest director of the piece, my focus was not on the generation of new material through devised processes (like I was accustomed to). Instead I was asked to work within a very strict timetable that was dictated by the actors’ work schedules, to ensure that the performance was ready by a given date. In this particular instance, although I spoke the local language, it was my being young and being a woman that strongly influenced how my work manifested. Given that I was working with an all-male cast whose average age was around thirty-five, older than I was at the time, the patriarchy governing that context made me more outsider than insider. Furthermore, since I did not have the time to implement the pedagogy of a devised theatre workshop methodology — I was given two hours a day to work with the cast and a very strict deadline for the performance — much of my experience of putting the performance together hinged on how I negotiated my age and my gender during short rehearsals. While this was not necessarily a drawback in that particular project, since I did not intend for a process-based focus or for any particular memorial afterlife, I draw from this experience to suggest that when a theatrical intervention’s focus is primarily the aesthetic outcome, cultural markers of power might become significant in shaping the practitioner-researcher’s positioning. So, in patriarchal contexts, it will be gender that most shapes the execution of the work. In a context where power is linked to age and experience, the perceived youth of the director might come into question. In a space where religious affiliation intersects with power, the practitioner-researcher’s performances of religiosity will affect the execution of their role as the director. While cultural markers of power are significant in any context, they become particularly relevant in a place of war as enactments of power have significant implications on how conflicts are perpetuated. Furthermore, when there is there no collaborative process in place to complement the focus on an aesthetic outcome, cultural markers of power achieve greater emphasis in marking the inside/outside positioning of the theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner.

21If a focus on processes is primarily influenced by linguistic inside-ness and if cultural markers of power influence a focus on aesthetic outcomes, what positional factors might influence a theatre-in-war intervention that is focussed on post-process/post-performance outcomes, be it the causation of tangible results or intangible memorial afterlives? I would argue that any work that claims to focus on outcomes, however intangible, might need to be designed and executed by someone who carefully negotiates their lived experience of choice. This is to say that ‘choice’ might be the most significant insider-outsider consideration when designing outcome-focussed work, especially in a place of war where any kind of afterlife could have violent ripple effects. A well-known example that demonstrates the importance of choice can be found in the origins of Forum Theatre, when Augusto Boal (in Cohen-Cruz and Schutzman, 2006: 3) is said to have performed an ‘agit-prop play preaching revolution to peasants’ and as a result of their performance, the actors were invited by members of his audience to ‘to take up rifles and join in an attack on the land owners’. The actors’ refusal to join the attack and the spectators’ subsequent disillusionment with the performances are events that are said to have catalysed Boal’s approach to Forum Theatre. Furthermore, this instance might be interpreted as one in which Boal had to become aware of his relative privilege, of his choice to leave that context, and that in order for him to speak to an outcome like ‘revolution’ in a context that he could choose to leave, he had to find a different theatrical approach. This question of choice in the practitioner-researcher’s lived experience thus, might become most significant in shaping where and how outcome-focused theatre-in-war work might occur: the choice to leave; the choice to stay; the choice to return; the choice to engage.

Notes from the field
To many ‘mainland’ Indians like me — mainland implying my being from a part of India that does not question its allegiance to the Indian nation-state — the north-eastern region of the country has remained an area that we have only heard whispers about. About armed groups that advocate for the region’s separation from the Indian nation state. About the Indian armed forces presence in the states that are called the Seven Sisters. About an act called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is said to have resulted in gross human rights violations in the region. Whispers....
Going to Nagaland in 2009 then, even though I did not have the terminology to explain this at the time, was going to a context to which I was both insider and outsider. Insider because our existence within the Indian nation-state’s borders created linguistic and cultural codes that I was able to access or understand.
Outsider because although we were all ‘Indian’ I was acutely aware that, maybe, I was seen as being a different kind of Indian than the Naga young people I was working with.
“Thank you for coming all the way from India”, I was told at some point during a month long workshop with Naga youth; a statement that initially made me laugh out loud.
“All the way from India”, I said to this young man, about to add, “Aren’t we all from there?”
I stopped myself from asking the latter part of my question though, because from reading the reactions in the room, I knew I had just been given a clue into my own positioning in Nagaland.
My work in Nagaland was followed by initial visits to Kashmir, again a space in which I was both insider and outsider and it was after recurring visits to both Nagaland and Kashmir between 2009 and 2012, after clarifying my intentions even further, after analysing more nuances to my inside and outside-ness in both contexts, that I chose to base my work in Kashmir (rather than Nagaland).
Ever since my ‘failures’ in Rwanda, I had tried to begin my conceptualization of theatre-in-war projects by carefully clarifying the intention behind the work. From wanting to ‘change’ the context or resolve a conflict, my intentions had evolved into wanting to aesthetically engage with narratives from across the victim/perpetrator binary in a war zone. While the victim/perpetrator binary and its relevance to the evolution in my work will be discussed in the following chapter (Who), this change in my intention led me to compare the ways in which my occupation of the insider-outsider hyphen varied between Kashmir and Nagaland. And as a result of this comparison vis-à-vis my intention, I asked myself to decide on one site of intervention between the two places; a site in which the intersection between my intention and positioning would lead to the most potential…
While my being from ‘mainland’ India initially elicited similar responses in both Kashmir and Nagaland, choosing between the two sites came down to an understanding of the host/guest dynamic in the two contexts.
How did each of these contexts view the work of non-Kashmiris or non-Nagas?
How did the power dynamics of being a guest manifest in each space?
How likely were audiences and actors to look beyond the host-guest dynamic in order to give me honest and direct feedback?
Given the political and ethical minefields of exploring narratives from across the perpetrator and victim binary in both these environments, I had come to the decision to work in the context in which my position as a guest would be less likely to give me more power; to work in the context in which my being a guest would not make my collaborators and audiences reticent in sharing their critiques with me. After initial visits to both Nagaland and Kashmir,
the former in which I was always given careful (and generally, positive) feedback,
the latter in which criticism about my work was shared openly and (maybe, too) honestly.
I made the choice to base my work in Kashmir.

22Once a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner articulates their intention, their choice of site will be influenced by their inhabitation of the hyphen between insider and outsider, in interaction with elements of intentionality. As described in this chapter, my experience indicates that an intentional focus on process might necessitate a linguistic inside-ness, that an intentional focus on aesthetic outcomes might be most influenced by cultural markers of power, and that an intention to work toward any kind of outcome might require a serious contemplation of the inside-outside dimensions to choices around leaving, staying in, or returning to a context of war. For example, a researcher-practitioner who is an outsider in terms of where they are from might still be strongly positioned to take on impact-based work if they have chosen to make a long-term commitment to that context of war; a choice that will not allow them to leave the war zone in question if their chosen outcomes result in dangerous consequences. Embodying the choice to stay, leave, or return, is what I have come to consider the most significant in outcome-oriented work. That said, I cannot deny that each theatre-in-war practitioner-researcher will encounter individualized markers that shape their occupation of the hyphen between insider and outsider, vis-à-vis their intentions.

23The goal in this chapter is not to convince the reader that there are particular markers that are more or less important than others. Rather, I simply propose that by creating a matrix between the project’s intentionality and the insider-outsider hyphen, a theatre-in-war researcher-practitioner might more carefully choose their sites of intervention. I reiterate that these choices will change with practice and that an initial assessment of a place of intervention might become problematic when unanticipated, context-specific aspects emerge. And yet, in comparison to choosing a site for a theatre-in-war intervention in an ad-hoc fashion, I propose that creating a matrix between intentions and positioning might be an informed way to decide where we do our work. And once we articulate an intention and choose a potential site of intervention, it is perhaps only natural that the next question becomes about whom the theatre-in-war project works with, for, and/or about. Intentionality leads to a more carefully crafted site of intervention; a decision that then informs our choices surrounding who our collaborators and spectators might be. With this in mind, let us move on to the next chapter: Who.


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