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Encountering the 'lively' in military theatre

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alice Cree



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a book chapter that has been published in its final definitive form by Edward Elgar, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


What can theatre offer our understanding of the nuances of military power in everyday life? How might it help us to more critically approach people’s engagements with military power? And what can the spatiality of theatre’s affects bring to the study of military geographies? Leavy argues that, ‘Performance serves as a method for exposing what is otherwise impossible to reveal’ (2015, p. 175), while theatre itself can be ‘a rich site for thinking about epistemologies that blur the line between context and text, and text and embodied practice’ (Pratt and Kirby 2003, p. 14). It can offer us ways of knowing that transcend frontiers between discourse and embodiment. Dramatic subjects of theatre have the capacity to do anything, to be anything. They are at once the product of text, context and discourse, and embodied performances of narrative and testimony. They are both suspended in time and space, and always in flux, iterative, open to interpretation and reinterpretation.In this chapter, the question I’d like to interrogate is: what might it mean for military studies to understand everyday encounters with military power in these terms? Rather than understanding theatre solely as a component of the literature of war, I argue that military theatre offers a methodological and conceptual tool to examine the embodied and affective textures of militarism. This work of course contributes to burgeoning scholarship in military studies, which contends that banal and prosaic spaces are crucial sites in which militarism and military power appear. When we examine these spaces, we are acknowledging that military power is as significant and tangible at an individual level as it is at the level of social groups and collective militarised practices. Following Basham and Bulmer (2017), who argue that we must view subjects as always relational in their engagements with military power, I argue that as a methodological and conceptual lens, theatre can help us to centre the ambiguity and ‘openness’ of any subject in their encounters with military power. Something as simple as the opening scene from a military community theatre project can open up so many key questions regarding how military power functions in everyday spaces. In this chapter, I do this by focusing specifically on exploring what theatre can offer to our understanding firstly of militarised affects as ‘simultaneously obedient and deviant’ (Mc Morrow 2018, p. 1), and secondly of militarised subjectivities as figures of relationality. This chapter will conclude with a reflection on what theatre might offer future research agendas in military geography

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cree ASJ

Editor(s): Woodward, R

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: A Research Agenda for Military Geography

Year: 2019

Pages: 162-173

Print publication date: 10/09/2019

Acceptance date: 01/04/2019

Publisher: Edward Elgar


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781786438867