Like a Whisper: Rethinking the Politics of Voice and Performance with Tania Bruguera

Anika Marschall*


This article analyses Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (2009), which creatively rewrites the widely distributed image of Fidel Castro’s victory speech in Havana (1959). By drawing on Xinghua Li, Brandon LaBelle and John Mowitt, the article discusses how the performance connects the whisper and frustrated revolutionary hopes, whilst contesting Western epistemologies. The article demonstrates how the whisper as a speaking from and to the margins is crucial for rethinking the politics of performance, and how to be in common otherwise.

Keywords: Whisper, political performance, voice, revolution, Latin America/Abya Yala

Introduction: Shifting from Voiced to Non-voiced

Performance scholarship has examined a wide range of creative practices, companies and theatre institutions, which aim to “give voice” to diverse communities, marginalised people(s) and vulnerable persons. There is also a well-established body of research, which critiques the distribution of representational voice and power on stage, and further, which critiques the institution of theatre itself as oppressively hierarchical form. When attending to the question of possible resistance, of re-distribution and social justice, the emphasis is often on vocalising the issue, on employing and developing strategies to speak up, to talk back, to tell different stories with diverse voices and languages. Building on feminist and postcolonial readings of voice and listening (Cavarero, Dreher, Campt, Quashie), in this article, I suggest that a shift from this emphasis on the voiced as resistant act, towards an emphasis on whispering (or non-voiced) enables us to rethink the possibilities of political performances in a world challenged by oppressive social and hegemonic structures. I ask how the whisper as an otherworldly speaking from the margins, decentres loud, hetero-patriarchal white voices, and in doing so, confounds a hegemonic desire and myth to be able to “address a universal audience?” (Li 29)

According to sound theorist R. Murray Schafer, raising the voice in public has become a question of power (76): in personal encounters with other people as well as in forms of censorship, policing and law. Voicing one’s concerns loudly in public is often understood as an index of power. Xinghua Li notes that this “volume politics” today “still sometimes dominates the leftist imagination of a revolution (see the cover of Foucault’s Fearless Speech, which portrays him shouting into a loudspeaker)” (31). When issues of power and representation are concerned, I still see a tendency in the arts, on stage and in scholarship, to attend to the notion of “giving a voice” or “speaking for” marginalised and vulnerable people. Voice here seems to be already constructed within a symbolic system of individual agency: voice is cast as something possessed, expressed, something efficient, rather than as interrelational phenomenon, as shared bodily resonance. Performance, I believe, can serve as a means to problematise and subvert such notions of voice and representation, by attending toward practices of listening and by providing a shared public forum in which to attend to the entanglement of our stories (Marschall).

Tania Bruguera. Photo: Wikipedia

My exploration of the whisper therefore starts with Tania Bruguera’s performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6, which tackles issues of censorship and free speech in contemporary Cuba—while also, I argue, exploring the politics of the whisper. I take my aforementioned entanglement of stories serious and not for granted; I am writing from a cis-female, white, powerful position of geographic distance in Northern Europe, while feeling deeply implicated in marginalised struggles for being heard on one’s own terms. Therefore, my perspective on the whisper from the Global North is limited and only a fraction of pluriversal perspectives on the whisper and whispering practices.

In the first part of the article, I examine Tatlin’s Whisper #6 and how it connects the failure of the socialist state with the whisper as voiceless address. With the title “Tatlin’s Whisper #6” Bruguera imagines a nodal point, at which the whisper intersects with the Monument to the Third International or Tatlin’s Tower—a symbolic reference to the 1917 socialist revolution and its failure. Vladimir Tatlin’s monument was never realised and instead exists only as “contrapuntal discourse” (Boym 83). In a contrapuntal fashion, the whisper constricts the vocal mechanism and shadows “the mouth’s capacity to support free and open speech, as the very emblem of democratic society, of full communication” (LaBelle 155). In doing so, the whisper speaks quietly (but not silently) of histories against which and together with which dominating voices act.

In the second part of the article, I focus on the whisper and reflect on the politics of the whisper as one which contests hegemonic modern knowledge that necessitates and values voicing. I argue that the whisper requires a practice of attuning oneself to lower and affective frequencies, which refuse “the intensity, credibility and exaltation of socialist revolutions” (Bruguera). For Bruguera, the political potential lies in the laborious effort that goes into whispering; an effort which, I contend, is often overhead by dominant groups and oppressors, and receives little to no hegemonic acknowledgement. It is here where I ultimately aim to throw into relief that the whisper’s allegorical function sheds light on the fraught disciplinary relationship between power and knowledge. The whisper’s form as voiceless address confounds institutionalised power and knowledge relations, and consequently, the whisper prompts me asking about ‘our’ disciplinary attachments in performance studies’ knowledge production.

A whisper is non-voiced vocalisation. Physically, the whisperer pulls back her vocal cords’ extension, so they cannot vibrate freely, while releasing a flow of breath. From a linguistic perspective, John Mowitt describes the whisper as being part of the voice “that is not the voice and not used phonemically in any known language. The whisper is in that sense a signifier that although capable of bearing a signified fails to. This complicates the whisper’s very indexicality” (60) The whisper makes it indeed difficult, if not impossible, to find out about the speaker’s political identity and to specifically locate her; her gender, race, age. A whisper unsettles assumptions about identity and self, about the information perceived as obvious, clear or binary in voiced speech. Therefore, the non-voiced whisper paradoxically “broaden[s]e voice capacity for contact, communication and influence” (LaBelle 147). Crucially, as in all other communication acts and registers too, the whisper depends on entering an interrelational space with other resonating beings in vibrant proximity.

In addition to physically constricting the vocal cord muscles, the whisper demands our labour in multiple ways: socially, sensory, affective, moving, emotional, observing. If I were to associate a movement with the whisper, it would be one of being drawn into, of pushing the head forward, perhaps tilting it slightly to the side for one ear to reach closer. Likewise, whispers might not reach a listener’s attention right away; it takes a certain proximity, attention and carefully choreographed mimicry between the two, before a listener becomes a listener and knows she is being addressed. Picture such a scene: it takes the listener time to look around the space, to identify where the hushed sounds come from, to look whether it’s her who is meant. Are the whispered sounds just the wind or are they perhaps meant for another addressee? Likewise, the whisperer must reassure the listener through physical approaching, turning towards. If a whisperer misses the right frequencies to reach a listener, she might become more persistent in pressing the air through the lungs, over the tongue and out the mouth, before communication rapport can be established between whisperer and addressee. It is not simply the voice, or respectively the vocal cord muscles that do the whisper’s labour; the whisper demands our labour in multiple ways, including the double-edged and potentially uncomfortable sociality to ‘lean in’ and get close with strangers in public. In so doing, it confounds the relationship among voice, body, space and power (Li 2011, 20). The physicality of the whisper weakens aural spatial perception and can create disorientating effects, making impossible to identify its origins. Paradoxically, the whisper oscillates between ‘extreme intimacy to extreme disembodiment’ (Li 2011, 22, original emphasis) in its physiological qualities, but also in its symbolic, cultural and social implications.

It is not simply the voice or respectively the vocal cord muscles that do the whisper’s labour; the whisper demands our labour in multiple ways, including the double-edged and potentially uncomfortable sociality to “lean in” and get close with strangers in public. In so doing, it confounds the relationship among voice, body, space and power (Li 20), as the physicality of the whisper weakens aural spatial perception and can create disorientating effects, making impossible to identify its origins. Paradoxically, the whisper oscillates between “extreme intimacy to extreme disembodiment” (Li 22) in its physiological qualities, but also symbolic, cultural and social implications.

I will turn to those symbolic, cultural and social implications of the whisper’s allegorical function in the following, by attending to the performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6. While Bruguera did not literally ask the performance participants to whisper, I will show how the performance enfolds dynamic qualities of resistance by intervening into repressed freedom of expression in Cuba and by creating a radical sensitivity toward the potential of commons.

Tatlin’s Whisper #6

On January 8, 1959, the 32-year-old revolutionary Fidel Castro Ruz held a lengthy victory speech in Havana, recounting the years of the armed conflict between the 26July Movement and the Cuban Government, and he outlined a course of action for the months to come. As Achy Obejas narrates in her novel Days of Awe,

[s]ometime shortly after he began, a white dove perched on his left shoulder, leaving everyone breathless [and then bursting into applause]. He gets that bird to pose with him, whether through strategy or sorcery it doesn’t matter. In one case, it’s divine intervention, in the other, a stroke of theatrical genius; in both, he wins.

Obejas 127

Black and white photographs, taken from below by, for example, Alberto Díaz Korda, José Pepe Agraz and Tor Eigendal, show the iconic image: Castro, surrounded by uniformed men, triumphantly holding the microphone as sigil of power, a dove sitting on his right shoulder and two others on the lectern (Söllner). For some, the white dove presents a symbol of Obtalá, the chosen one or the son of God (Busto 60). The doves have entered the post-revolutionary Cuban myth as ambiguous symbol of peace, of “divine intervention,” as described by the Cuban writer Ernesto Hernández Busto (60), as well as a rehearsed and planned performance indexing the propaganda machine at work. Likely not despite but because of their ambiguity, the iconic images of Castro and the doves have since been a pillar of “cross-national memory discourse” of Cuba and its diaspora, being “situated between the global and the local” (Quiroga 2).

The Centro Wifredo Lam where Bruguera first performed Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (2009). Photo: Web

Tania Bruguera’s performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (2009)creatively rewrites and contests the politics inscribed into the image of Fidel Castro’s victory speech from 1959 (see also Söllner). On March 29, 2009, Bruguera first performed Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in the central courtyard of the Centro Wifredo Lam during the 10th Havana Biennial. On one end of the courtyard, a large golden curtain was hung as backdrop for a raised podium. Next to either side stood a person upright and dressed in military uniform, one of them holding a white dove in their hands. On the podium stood a lectern with an amplifier, connecting to two speakers, one placed at the building’s entrance and pointing to the street outside. Bruguera handed out two hundred disposable cameras to a crowd of fifty to sixty spectators to document the event. She declared that during the hour-long performance, they would have freedom of expression, inviting willing individual audience members up onto the podium to speak for one minute each. As Claire Bishop recounts, “[t]he atmosphere was utterly electric. . . . A long pause ensued,” people and “the media thronged in anticipation. Would anyone speak their mind and face the consequences?” (122).

I envision the audience to have experienced mixed emotions: Bruguera’s invitation to take a literally loud part in this performance certainly engendered different reactions, hesitations, questions, feelings of fear, excitement, and awe. Drawing on Bishop’s eyewitness account and contextual information, the audience was made up of international visitors, curators, art collectors and local artists, writers, students. Therefore, they had very different positions, stakes and capacities to enact political agency vis-à-vis Cuba’s inner repression of non-confirming political views and the weighing threat of censorship, with potentially perilous socio-economic consequences for Cubans. The Havana Biennial placed (and has been placing) post-colonial theory and Southern-Hemispheric relations at the forefront of its curated artistic activities, consciously eschewing the mediation of Western centres (Bishop 122). Thus, not only the question of censorship, but also the question of privilege and voice certainly must have lingered among the audience. Who deemed themselves in a position to take up the microphone and space on the podium, speaking their mind or on behalf of others?

Bishop writes that “[a] woman was the first to mount the podium, where she simply wept, her hands shaking as she clutched the microphone” (122). A man and woman in uniform stepped on the podium and flanked her on both sides, placing the white dove on the woman’s shoulder. After the woman’s minute was over, the persons in uniform ushered her off the stage. Thirty-eight more people made their way to the podium, critically engaging with the Cuban political system, speaking their mind, or saying nothing and simply crying. The blogger Yoani Sánchez “took advantage of the unprecedented opportunity to publicly critique the regime” (Schwartz 230). Since 2007, Sánchez has been writing the blog Generación Y, which is sponsored by the Huffington Post, by gaining email access to computers at hotels in Cuba. She has been growing an international community, which helps to download, translate and post her entries online. Because Sánchez was invited to participate in the event beforehand, she came prepared with a written speech, raising her voice against the government’s crackdown on new technologies and her own blog, insisting, “Now is the time for us to jump the wall of control” (230). Bruguera’s invitation to Sánchez for Tatlin’s Whisper #6 signals how the artists sought to address also an international media to shed light on the role of the press and media in Cuban society (231). In the event, impromptu spoken words and silence merged with carefully prepared speeches. This merging offers a multi-layered insight into the regimes of both, emotional and critical labour at work for, in and beyond any live performance.

El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana)

During the fortieth minute, government officials stopped the work, and Bruguera took the podium, closed the event and thanked specifically “the Cubans” for their courage, for exercising their human right to freedom of expression. According to Luis Camnitzer, the event “had ignited a dramatic conflict with the authorities,” and Gerardo Mosquera even called it a “historic event in Cuba.” This “event” has long entered international art collections and was purchased in 2014 by the Guggenheim Museum. It is enlisted in their digital catalogue as follows: “Color video, with sound, 40 min., 33 sec., stage, podium, loudspeaker, video camera, and microphones, with occasional performance. Dimensions variable” (Guggenheim Museum). Arguably, it is not simply the hardware, as registered in the museum collection, which makes-up the performance’s documents. What is crucially missing from the register here is the statement issued by the 10th Havana Biennal Organizing Committee in the online cultural magazine La Jiribilla.

Last Sunday March 29th 2009, in the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Centre, various people unrelated to the culture, headed by a professional “dissident” created by the powerful media group PRISA made use of a performance by Tania Bruguera to strike a blow at the Cuban Revolution. It was a case where individuals, in the service of the anti-Cuban propaganda machine, repeated worn-out claims of “freedom” and “democracy” demanded by their sponsors. They spoke—or rather acted—for the cameras and now several media outlets in Florida are turning it into big news.

Schwartz 231

Importantly, then Minister of Culture Abel Prieto’s statement identifies two different binary audience groups and pits them against another: artists versus civic participants. Prieto called the former “ajenas a la cultura,” people who are literally “strangers to culture,” not associated with official governmental cultural institutions, which were part of Cuba’s strategy to enter the new geopolitical order in the Special Period through the professing of the arts and artists (Duong 378).

Thus, what is clear and problematic about Bruguera’s work is that it is haunted and both “protected by and restricted to the categories of author, artist, and art” (379). It makes possible the double-edged self-fashioning of the Cuban government as tolerant and open to civic engagement, when pertaining to a closed, self-referential logic of the art world. While the statement did not denounce the artwork or Bruguera, it paradoxically “completed” (Sánchez) the event, by denouncing those who had “hijacked” the event; that is, the dissident speakers and bloggers. Schwartz even suggests that this communiqué was indeed planned by Bruguera and her team (232), and Sánchez agrees that “[a]bsent the rebuke, the performance event would have seemed like a signal that the intolerance has yielded, that it is possible to mount the podium and express oneself without fear.”

Put differently from my perspective, understanding the statement as dramaturgical ephemera of Tatlin’s Whisper #6, the performance documents a geographically distant, on-looking Western culture’s collective sentiment about artistic freedom and outrage against censorship, more so than it does the actual repressive regime tactics and human rights abuses in Cuba itself.

Tatlin’s Whisper #6 creatively rewrites the widely circulated press image of Castro’s 1959 post-revolutionary speech. I would go so far as to say that Tatlin’s Whisper #6 does not just pertain to present 2009 Cuba, but fabulates a collective speech scene, a utopian way towards prefiguring a different present-day Cuba. Let us return to the politics of the whisper, even though or rather, exactly because the actual spoken words into the microphone in Tatlin’s Whisper #6 were not all literally whispered. In what ways posits the performance what “it is like to whisper in the Global North” (Mowitt 59)? Rather than defining what the whisper is, this question asks what the whisper is doing, how the whisper is doing what it is doing in a specific political and socio-cultural context. This question brings me back to my critical positionality and how the whisper as address, as allegory, as index of othered knowledge might unsettle modern Western epistemologies. The question on one hand contests the idea that there could be such a thing as universal political call for freedom of expression and human rights in an a-historic context, neglecting the specifics why such political calls are at times perilous, get overheard or rubber-stamped. This question throws into relief geopolitically contentious relations between listener and speaker, audience and performer, working in/about/from a Southern Hemisphere and within the frame of the biennale as global art circuit. On the other, the question shifts the analytic focus from the registers of impromptu voiced words and carefully rehearsed speeches in the event, towards the performance’s underlying discursive practice. Asking differently: what kind of address is performed in Tatlin’s Whisper #6?

Still from El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana), 2009, on Vimeo

Tatlin’s Whisper #6 makes evident that in any mediated public sphere free speech is always compromised. The performance did not set out to literally “create the conditions for free speech in a place where speech is censored and when the political content—or lack thereof—is always already an issue” (Schwartz 232). Rosero considers that if “for example, no one had stepped up to the podium, the work would have become a living index of extreme levels of self-censorship” (99). Although it is important to remember the relationality of this extremity, self-censorship is, I would argue, not an individual’s singular, autonomous, lone enforcing, but works always in relation to their community and the potential of an audience to come and the potential for that audience to enact perilous hostility. This returns us to the way an audience is addressed through voiced speech and/or non-voiced whispers, and how both forms perpetuate oppressive means or how either/or holds subversive potential. Judith Butler writes that the

structure of address is important for understanding how moral authority is introduced and sustained if we accept not just that we address others when we speak, but that in some way we come to exist, as it were, in the moment of being addressed, and something about our existence proves precarious when that address fails.

Butler 129

The structure of address in the performance Tatlins Whisper #6 is about coercive forms of participation, and it raises its political stakes (Robbins 177). It produces precarious conditions because the audience subjects are constituted through binary terms they cannot possibly meet: the Cuban people versus the Revolution’s Other. Rather than offering yet another Special Period artwork to negotiate national identity through cultural participation, Tatlins Whisper #6 asked its audience not directly to denounce the political order in Cuba, but to create new discursive interventions within a precarious theatrical frame. The performance exposes the very conditions of relation upon which the right to speak as a constituent part of the public sphere relies. More importantly, this does not happen distinctively within the temporary event aesthetics, but in the social relations and symbolic representations taking place in the aftermath of the event, “in a cultural field of notoriously opaque power dynamics, unstated etiquettes of tolerance, and intricate circuits of clandestine communication” (Duong 387). I return to the question of how a whisper addresses and articulates conditions of political address and exclusion in the second and following part of the article.

The Whisper as a means for an intersectional approach to performance

Despite commending the subversive, revolutionary, democratic potential at the heart of the whisper (and at the heart of theatre performances, perhaps), the gendered and racialised violence imposed on whisperers is important to consider. This is true particularly about Bruguera’s role as cis-female Latinx artist as well as to the contentious gendered relation between public sphere and domestic home in her work overall, which at times has been realised under house arrest. In so doing, her works make productive the tension between keeping acts of civil disobedience and creative oppression quiet and secret, while also making them available to international and local audiences and evidencing actually existing solidarity.

Virginia Woolf suggests in Three Guineas (1938) that only women can articulate the most important form of resistance to patriarchal militarism by virtue of their exclusion from it. For her, those who live between the banks of the public sphere and the space of exclusion, can refuse to be absorbed into either and instead, imagine and create bridges between them, not to cross, but to live on and whisper truths from them to the banks. For Woolf, “patriarchy and militarism are not inevitable, but rather are in the process of being challenged by a diffuse, alternative form of organization [a clandestine female network], one that resists institutionalization and emerges from the courage and creativity of diverse individuals in particular circumstances.” (Maxwell 48-49) I want to put emphasis here on the way the whisper might be a means to resist institutionalisation: itholds potential to  help identify intersectional structures of oppression, while also bearing the potential to subvert the volume politics in performance, performance studies and beyond.

Still from El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana), 2009, on Vimeo

Anna Julie Cooper articulates the distinct position of Black women as societal outsider in A Voice from the South (2000 [1892]), which demands of them to develop “a distinctive voice to both understand and address their condition.” (Maxwell 42) She suggests that Black women occupy a “peculiar coigne of vantage as a quiet observer, to whisper just the needed suggestions or the almost forgotten truth”. (Cooper 51). The whisper makes possible to defy having to speak in the terms of louder, more dominant and exclusive social grounds, it makes them “able to be in, but not of, the public realm.” (Maxwell 42) As in Woolf’s account, the whisper here opens up a structure of address from the margins and periphery. But the whisper functions here as a tense, contentious and Black practice of quiet refusal, as a way to decentre hegemonic voices (see also Quashie). It is refusing to capture and reveal a specific location of Black women. Instead, it the whisper engages obliquely in imagining liberation, while unsettling hegemonic myths about what it means to be human in colonial (and I add post-colonial, post-socialist) conditions. To remind again, it is not the actual content of the whisper, or the risky nature of confiding or informing (on) someone, that makes it political – that would imply that an allegorical whisper was non-political (Mowitt 77). Instead, what the allegorical whisper does, and as it appears in Cooper’s novel, is negotiate the constraints of the political realm itself, through pronouncing the epistemological “linkages and enmeshments that keep things apart [and] voidings and uncoverings that hold things together” (Chow 12). The whisper confounds modern that is colonial logics of power and knowledge, which rely on voiced disciplinary or institutional authority, and instead the whisper flees these regimes of representation.

The whisperer speaks inaudibly from the edge of knowing and not knowing. She is perhaps performative in the sense that she appears “truly gifted–may be a witch, or even the devil, because she precisely does not simply put on an act like a theatrical showman, shaman or charlatan” (Mowitt 64). John Mowitt argues that whispering allegorically touches upon a “fraught disciplinary matrix” of “ ‘modern’ power/knowledge” (65). He does so by connecting narratives of horse whispering with the medieval witch-hunts and consequent enclose of the commons, as read through a feminist-Marxist lens by Silvia Federici (2014). The witches’ knowing and whispering was othered and pitted against a voiced modern knowledge, and consequently they were dehumanised, violated against and murdered. Mowitt understands the historical witches as whisperers, who offer a different kind of knowing in order to heal and make possible a liberated commons. To him, their whisper touches “on the traumatic confrontation in the human with the nonhuman” (69). Whisperers produce a certain kind of speech, which is haunted by the violent exclusions from the domain of the political and theoretical registers about what it means to be human. However, it equally has the potential to unsettle them. Whispering expresses the unspeakable or unvoiceable, a modality of violent domestication, of being put in place, of capture, and whispering expresses how the putting in place is done by hegemonic discourses and colonialist regimes of representation from the Global North.

In my reading of the whisper’s address, I rely on John Mowitt’s notion of how the whisper gives an “oblique address to the side” (72). To him, the whisper “speaks toward us about the place from which it emanates, a place that is at once too remote and too intimate to be accessible to the speaking animal [us humans].” (72). To repeat from this article’s introduction, the whisper’s physical and linguistic form make it difficult, if not impossible to find out about the whisperer’s positionality, to specifically locate her and place her identity. The whisper seems to be ‘out of place’ itself, a ghostly, hushed, non-voiced speech coming seemingly from nowhere or respectively, from the sides. What Mladen Dolar has termed the “politics of the voice” (121) posits a disciplinary problem: which “institutionalized forms of knowledge production, and where, are authorized to speak about speech or sound off about sound?” (Mowitt 77) Put differently, in what ways does the whisper reconfigure concepts of the political, as they feature in performance and its distinct form of institutional knowledge production in the field of performance studies? Because the whisper produces a tense, recalcitrant modality of quiet (rather than silent), which exceeds what we associate with voice and articulate knowledge, the whisper becomes crucial for rethinking the politics of performance and the politics of performance studies. Performance artists, theatre-makers or whisperers are not always already political, but performance creates meaningful spaces for telling of naturalised practices of exclusion. Performance can show tell “how various forms of power function to keep different kinds of individuals (women, people of color, queer, trans*, and gender nonconforming people) outside the circle of the hearable” (Maxwell xi). It Thus, the whisper might be a potent means for an intersectional approach to envision a liberated commons.

Still from El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana), 2009, on Vimeo

Much as I do in my reading of the whisper and as in other research, I make use of Western theoretical discourses, which have become widely ‘internationally’ recognisable and socially constructed as powerful and valuable. The whisper’s allegorical form unsettles this pervasive assigning of value to certain kinds of knowledges, rather than othered kinds of knowing as well as this binary pitting of one against another. The whisper creates a contentious embodied relationship, it drives ears to open to pluriversal kinds of knowing, and listeners to be impacted by this opening on more than cognitive level. I posit here that the whisper enables a form of subversive creativity, unsettles power dynamics of address between supposed centre and periphery, and it demands intersectional fabulation. The whisper as allegory might open our research ears in performance studies towards a holistic valuing of pluriversal knowledges, rather than pervasively relying on a hierarchy problematically and violently constituted by Western epistemologies in relation to coercive structures of voicing, knowing and address. The whisper confounds the disciplinary making-up of such a centred criticality of the world and our thinking, and instead, it offers vagarious frequencies and opaque perspectives, which in turn resonate with the playing field of fabulation as the one which has always already been centre stage in all kinds of knowledge production within performance and performance studies.


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*Anika Marschall is Postdoctoral Fellow in the research project “Reconfiguring dramaturgy for a global culture” at Aarhus University (AUFF-E-2019-7-8). She holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow and her research interests are concerned with theatre, migration and human rights. Anika has previously published about artistic interventions into asylum and statelessness, including performance works by Akira Takayama, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Centre for Political Beauty and Claudia Bosse. Anika is editor of the Scottish Journal of Performance and co-founder of the network Neue Kritische Theaterwissenschaft. Her monograph Performing Human Rights is forthcoming with Routledge.

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