Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Theater and Performance, University of London / Queen Mary

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Drama/Theater, University of California / Berkeley
Playing with Authority: Provocation and Performance in the German New Left

My dissertation project examines the role of performance in the German New Left. By drawing on archival sources, interviews with former participants, and analysis of selected films, plays, and protests, I am studying how performative forms of dissent constituted a central part of 1960s West German countercultural politics and re-imagined the role performance could play in society. My research focuses on a prominent form of activism that emerged in the German New Left of the late 1960s, often referred to as Spassguerilla (Fun-Guerilla). Through various types of irreverent actions such as throwing pies at government officials or orchestrating humorous theatrical disruptions in courtrooms and lecture halls, Spassguerilla activists looked to effect political change using performative means that challenged conventional understandings of what it meant to act politically in West Germany's postwar liberal democracy. While much theater and performance scholarship on the tumultuous events of 1960s West Germany has focused on how the German New Left impacted the theater of the time, my research critically examines the consequences and varied forms of performance (happenings, guerilla theater) and performative modes of protest (sit-ins, mass demonstrations, blockades, etc.) used by the New Left. What was the relationship between politics and performance in the New Left and how did international movements in art and performance like Situationism and Fluxus influence this conjuncture? What were the theoretical underpinnings of such forms of action and how did the New Left’s use of direct action come into conflict with the emphasis on critical reflection espoused by their academic mentors in the Frankfurt School? What can studying the performative dynamics of the student movement add to our understanding of West German politics and the global events associated with 1968? How will attending to political performance of 1960s West Germany beyond the paradigm of political theater enrich our knowledge of German performance history?