From the bureaucratic to the theatrical performance: Re-inscribing and transcending the “refugee experience”


Marios Chatziprokopiou




In recent years, the figure of the “displaced Other” has occupied an increasingly central role on European and Greek stages. Against this backdrop, this paper shows, theatrical representations of displaced people often reproduce them as ahistorical, tragic victims, deprived of political rights and cultural past. Drawing on fieldwork on two recent performances in Athens, Greece, this paper argues that theatre as an institutional apparatus risks reproducing the structures of representation it ostensibly seeks to subvert or displace: in spite of itself, theatre often becomes a technology that re-inscribes dominant representations of otherness. At the same time, this paper unpacks moments in which such representations are challenged, and/or overcome. Through participant observation of the rehearsal process and semi-structured interviews with the participants, I focus on instances in which the performers themselves seem not to conform to the political/aesthetic norms imposed on them, and thus complicate the essentialized figure of the tragic Other. They appear as unique historical and cultural subjects, who do not simply give staged accounts of their realities, but often challenge, suspend, and transcend them.


Marios Chatziprokopiou is a teaching fellow at the University of Patras, Department of Theatre Studies, and a post-doctoral researcher at the Research Centre for the Humanities, in collaboration with the University of Macedonia. After earning an MA in Social Anthropology (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales de Paris), he has successfully defended his PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies (Aberystwyth University, UK), investigating theatrical and ritual performances of lament by displaced people in Athens and Piraeus.