New book provides fresh insight into Ireland’s intercultural policy
2017-11-15 16:15:00 -

By Kunle Animashaun

Charlotte McIvor’s insightful new book, Migration and Performance in Contemporary Ireland: Towards a New Interculturalism, is an invaluable resource material on how creativity can be a driving force for intercultural dialogue. 


The book is important because it is the first time that a genuine effort is made for a comprehensive documentation of the efforts by various individuals, artistes and arts organisations at promoting integration in Ireland through the arts over the years.


McIvor’s book focusses on theatre and dance productions, photography and art exhibitions and the like. It also explores the work of human rights activists who have championed the cause of the disadvantaged in Irish society. 


Some of the topics treated by the book include identity, cultural integration, the impracticality of the term multiculturalism, and how interculturalism has been proven to be a much more suitable terminology to describe the interactions and negotiations between people of different cultures in a society like Ireland.


From the perspectives of casting, adaptation and translation within an idea the author described as ‘interculturalism from below’ – a terminology that aptly accentuates how intercultural dialogue takes place often mostly from within local communities – McIvor is able to present motivating arguments on how the arts can provide the raw materials and templates that people may use to express themselves and their relationship to others while also confronting matters of political, ethnic, and cultural identity.


In very clear terms, the author then proceeds to discuss Ireland’s translation of interculturalism as social policy into artistic practice, and the implications of this ‘new interculturalism’ for theatre and performance studies both within and beyond Ireland. 


McIvor argues that if effectively channelled, intercultural diversity — of which the theatrical space is a core element — can continuously be used to promote dialogue among different communities.


McIvor’s enthusiasm for the topic is obvious throughout the book’s eight chapters, as she offers new ways to conceptualise and study intercultural dialogue from the perspective of theatre and the arts.


The third chapter examines the work of three migrant-led theatre companies — Arambe Productions, Polish Theatre Company and Camino Productions – noting how each has used theatre as “a means of expressing their conditions of exile”. The work of prominent indigenous artists like Declan Gorman, Liam Halligan, Donal O’Kelly, Mirjana Rendulic, Kasia Lech, Raymond Keane, Gary Keegan is also spotlighted, as well as the roles played by organisations and agencies like Barabbas, Calypso, the Arts Council of Ireland, and Create, the national agency for arts in Ireland. 


According to the author, all of these individuals and organisations have used their talents, productions and policies to not only probe, contest and subvert the notions of belonging, but also collaborate and synergise with people of different cultural affiliations in order to increase cross-cultural awareness in Irish society. 


Migration and Performance in Contemporary Ireland was launched by Professor Helen Phelan on Thursday 26 October in the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway, where McIvor is a lecturer in drama and theatre studies as well as director of postgraduate studies in drama. She received her PhD in performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley with a designated emphasis on gender, women and sexuality. Previous to this book she was co-editor of 2014’s Devised Performance in Irish Theatre: Histories and Contemporary Practice.


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