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Students: Chapter 8. Global and Intercultural Performance

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How should artists respond to globalization? Should they cut back on intercultural activities? Or is this troubled epoch precisely the time when such works are most needed? And even if artists wanted to work in isolation or in a condition of cultural purity, how could they in a hybridizing world of ever-increasing movement and exchange of people, goods, and ideas? But having noted this, we can ask artists – non-Western as well as Western – to be mindful and careful about from whom they borrow, what use they make of the arts and rituals of other cultures, and how individual works might exacerbate or ease global imbalances. Should artists boycott international festivals and tourist performances? Ought the rules governing borrowings differ depending on whether one is a Western or non-Western artist, an urban or rural artist?

Classroom Activities


  1. Decide on a question that you feel is important to people "everywhere." Using social media, contact people from at least four different cultures who speak four different languages. Agree to communicate with each other using only "mother tongues," the language a person learned first. How well did you communicate? How much comes across? On the basis of your experience, do you think globalization can work only if there is a hegemonic language? 
  2. Stage a “border scene” in the style of Gómez-Peña. Do it twice: once in class, once in a public space.
  3. Create an intercultural performance. Start by presenting to the group your own cultural background and by listening intently to the background of others. Incorporate these experiences into the performance. Then decide as a group whether or not to research and include elements from cultures outside the group. Is your performance an example of horizontal or vertical intercultural performance?
  4. Create a tourist performance -- a campus tour for visitors or a living museum. Or something else. After the performance, discuss how your tourist performance is different from an art performance and from a performance of everyday life.
  5. Create a piece of social theatre focused on an issue of importance within your community. The piece can be self-contained or it can involve the audience as in Boal's Forum Theatre. How is social theatre different from conventional theatre?


  1. Write about the ways in which you have been personally affected by globalization.
  2. Choose two intercultural performances, an integrative one and a disruptive one. Are their ultimate goals similar or dissimilar? What means do each of the performances use to achieve its goals?
  3. Do you think the idea of the “glocal” is useful? In what ways does the glocal mask the problems of globalization and in what ways does it describe the hope that globalization will result in a better world?
  4. Watch an international sporting event and write about how the players and spectators perform their national identities. 


Sample Discussion Questions


  1. Discuss the impacts that globalization has had – or perhaps may have in the future – on you and your classmates. Do you think it is possible to live a "non-global" life?
  2. From the point of view of the majority of the world’s peoples, do you believe globalization is good or bad? Depending on your answer, what can you do performatively either to advance or to stop globalization?
  3. Have you ever had an “intercultural moment,” when you have miscommunicated or been misunderstood because of a difference in cultures? What did you do in that situation? What should be done in such circumstances?
  4. What does it mean to talk about globalization “as” performance? What are some scenarios of globalization?
  5. Discuss two tourist performances you have seen. Were you entertained, embarrassed, pleased, distressed? How do you feel the performers felt about what they were doing? In what sense, if any, are tourist performances "authentic"?



Homi K. Bhabha (1949– )

Indian cultural theorist, a leading figure in postcolonial studies. His works include The Location of Culture (1994), the edited volume Nation and Narration (1990), and Edward Said: Continuing the Conversation (2005).

Osama bin Laden (1957– 2011)

the leader of al Qaeda and member of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family. On 2 May 2011, bin Laden was killed by American Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) who raided his compound in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border. Bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and Washington’s Pentagon. Speaking on Al-Jazeera television of the attacks, Bin Laden proclaimed: "God Almighty hit the United States at its most vulnerable spot. He destroyed its greatest buildings. Praise be to God. Here is the United States. It was filled with terror from its north to its south and from its east to its west" (7 October 2011).

Lee Breuer (1937– )

American director and writer, co-founder in 1970 of the experimental theatre company, Mabou Mines. Breuer’s many productions include the Animations series (1970–78), Gospel at Colonus (1983), Epidog (1996), Peter and Wendy (1996), Ecco Porco (2000), Mabou Mines Dollhouse (2003), Red Beads (2005), and Summa Dramatica (2009).

George W. Bush (1946– )

forty-third president of the United States and the eldest son of the forty-first president, George Herbert Walker Bush. George W. was raised in Texas where he worked in the oil business before becoming in 1989 a co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1995, Bush was elected governor of Texas. He won the presidency in 2000 only after the intervention of the United States Supreme Court which stopped the recounting of ballots in Florida (whose governor was Jeb Bush, George W.’s brother). In 2001, he led America into war in Afghanistan and in 2003, in Iraq. Bush was elected to a second term as President in 2004.

Chandralekha (1929–2007)

Indian dancer-choreographer widely known for her experimental and intercultural reinterpretations of traditional forms. Her works include Angika (1985), Bhinna Pravaha (1993), and Sharira (1997).

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342–1400)

English poet, best known for The Canterbury Tales, written between 1386 and 1400. In this poem, 29 pilgrims, old and young, women and men, set out from Southwark, near London, to the shrine of the martyr Thomas Becket (1118?–1170) at Canterbury Cathedral, England. They agree to engage in a story-telling contest while on the road, to pass the time and entertain each other.

Paul Claudel (1868–1955)

French playwright, poet, essayist, and diplomat who spent many years in China and Japan. Claudel not only had a deep interest in Japanese noh theatre but wrote noh plays himself. Among his better known works: Tidings Brought to Mary (1912) and The Satin Slipper (1924).

Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) (1451–1506) 

Italian explorer who in 1492, while searching for a westward passage to Asia under commission from Queen Isabella of Spain, “discovered” the Americas by landing on several Caribbean islands. He claimed the “new” lands he touched for the Spanish crown and inaugurated the modern colonial period.

Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937)

French educator, founder of the modern Olympics movement, and president of the International Olympic Committee from 1896 to 1925.

Fernand Crommelynck (1886–1970)

Belgian playwright who specialized in farces where ordinary failings become irrepressible obsessions. Among his best known works are The Magnificent [or Magnanimous] Cuckold (1920) and A Woman Whose Heart Is Too Small (1934).

Etienne Decroux (1898–1991)

French performer considered “the father of modern mime.” Decroux’s techniques have been very influential in both dance and theatre.

Frantz Fanon (1925–61)

Martinique-born anti-colonial theorist who lived mostly in France but concentrated his attention on Africa. His books include Black Skin, White Masks (1952, Eng. 1967) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961, Eng. 1965).

Dario Fo (1926– )

Italian satirical communist playwright, actor, and director, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. His plays include, in English translation, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1970), We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay (1974), The Pope and the Witch (1989), The Devil With Boobs (1997), and Francis The Holy Jester (2009). Actress and author Franca Rame (1929– ) joined Fo’s theatre in 1951; they married in 1954. Rame has contributed greatly to Fo’s achievements.

Muammar Gaddafi (1942–2011)

military dictator of Libya from 1969 to his death in 2011. Erratic and unpredictable, in 1977 Gaddafi renounced his official position as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Libya. He ruled from then on as the "Brother Leader" and "Guide of the Revolution." The Arab Spring led to an armed uprising against Gaddafi starting in February 2011. In June, warrants for his arrest were issued by Interpol the International Criminal Court. NATO bombings helped insurgents defeat Gaddafi. He was pursued to his hometown of Sirte where on 20 October he was killed by the Libyan National Army. 

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869–1948)

Indian political and spiritual leader advocating non-violent resistance to British colonial authority. In January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist. His writings include Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (1954) which Gandhi updated several times.

Hijikata Tatsumi (1928–1986)

the dancer-choreographer who, along with Ohno Kazuo, invented butoh. Hijikata’s dances were extremely intimate and violent, shocking many who saw them. Over time, his work was accepted. Hijikata’s works include Kinjiki (Forbidden Colors, 1959), Gibasan (1972), Hosotan (A Story of Small Pox, 1972), Hitogata (Human Mold, 1976), Taka Zashiki (Hawk Parlor, 1984), Tohoku Kabuki Kekaku 1 through 4 (Tohoku Kabuki Project, 1985).

Homer (eighth or ninth century BCE)

the legendary blind Greek poet, putative composer of the seminal epic poems, the Odyssey and the Iliad. Most scholars believe that Homeric tradition is oral. Only long after Homer’s time were his poems set in writing.

Saddam Hussein (1937–2006)

Leader of the Ba’ath party and dictator of Iraq from 1979 until 2003 when he was overthrown by the American invasion. A brutal ruler, Saddam used poison gas against Iraqi Kurds, executed many political enemies, and waged a bloody war against Iran, 1980–88. In 1990, Saddam’s army invaded neighboring Kuwait. In 1991, American and British forces responded, routing Saddam’s army but not removing him from power. After 9/11, a "coalition of the willing" mobilized by the USA invaded Iraq and defeated Saddam. He fled, was captured, tried by Iraqis, and hung.

Igor Ilinsky (1901–87)

Russian actor and comedian who worked closely with Meyerhold in developing biomechanics. Ilinsky played Bruno in Meyerhold’s production of Fernand Crommelynck’s The Magnanimous Cuckold (1922).

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–68)

African-American religious and civil rights leader, winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end racial discrimination in the USA. King was assassinated by a white racist in April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Kuo Pao Kun (1939–2002)

Chinese born, multilingual Singapore playwright, director, and theorist. In 1965 he and his wife Goh Lay Kuan founded the Practice Performing Arts School. Kuo was imprisoned for his leftist views from 1976 to 1980. In 1990, he was awarded Singapore’s Cultural Medallion; and in 2002 the Excellence for Singapore award. From 1989 to 1995, Kuo headed Singapore’s Substation performance center. Kuo’s plays include The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole (1984), Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral (1995), Mama Looking for Her Cat (1988), The Spirits Play (1998), and the multilingual Sunset Rise (1998).

Suzanne Lacy (1945– )

conceptual/performance artist who addresses social issues such as racism, homelessness, aging, and violence by engaging local people in site-specific work. Lacy chaired the Fine Arts Department of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles before she launched its masters program in Public Practice in 2007. Lacy is the editor of Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (1995).

T. E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia” (1888–1935)

Welsh soldier and author who served as British liaison to the Arabs during their revolt against the Ottoman Empire (1916–22). During the First World War (1914–18), Lawrence led an Arab armed force that first overcame the Turks at Aqaba and later entered Damascus before the British. Lawrence participated in an early version of the Arab Spring. For Lawrence's account of his experiences in Arabia see his Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935). For a fictionalized dramatization, watch Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Leadbelly (1885–1949)

born Huddie Ledbetter, this legendary African-American blues and ballad composer and singer was a pardoned murderer and the master of the 12-string guitar.

Ralph Lemon (1952– )

American choreographer and dancer whose Geography trilogy – Geography (1997), Tree (2000), and Come Home Charley Patton (2004) – explores multicultural and intercultural themes, performers, musics, and dancing. Other works include Joy (1989) and Persephone (1991), Rescuing the Princess (2009), and How Can you Stay in the House all Day and Not Go Anywhere (2010). Lemon chronicles his experience on Parts 1 and 2 of Geography in his book Tree: Belief/Culture/Balance (2004).

Natalia Makarova (1940– )

Russian-born dancer who performed with Russia’s Kirov Ballet and later with the American Ballet Theatre. Her most famous roles included Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and Giselle. Among her dancing partners were Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolph Nureyev. After retiring from dancing, Makarova began to stage ballets.

Marshall McLuhan (1911–80)

Canadian visionary communications theorist known for his aphorism, “the medium is the message.” McLuhan forecast the enormous impact of television and the internet. He theorized the transition from print-based individualized culture to media-based collective or neo-tribal culture – a new social reality McLuhan called the “global village.” McLuhan’s books include The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1962), and War and Peace in the Global Village (1968).

Ariane Mnouchkine (1939– )

French director, founder in 1964 of the Théâtre du Soleil. Productions include Les Clowns (1969–70), 1789 and 1793 (1970–73), Les Shakespeare Cycle (1981–84), Sihanouk (1985), L’Indiade (1987–88), Les Atrides (1990–93), Tartuffe (1995–96), and Le Dernier Caravanserail (Odyssées) (2003).

Earl Louis Mountbatten (1900–79)

Last British Viceroy of India, he turned authority over to the leaders of India and Pakistan in August 1947. During the Second World War, Lord Mountbatten headed the Allied Southeast Asian Command.

Hosni Mubarak (1928– )

president of Egypt from 1981 to 2011. Under pressure from the crowds in Cairo's Tahir Square demanding an end to his dictatorship, he left office on 11 February. In August 2011, Mubarak was put on trial for ordering the killing of Tahir protestors and for corruption. Before entering politics, Mubarak commanded the Egyptian Air Force from 1972 to 1975. He became vice-president in 1975 and president upon the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Protests erupted in Egypt again in June 2012 when Mubarak was cleared of corruption charges and given a life sentence for doing nothing to stop the killings. 

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964)

a revolutionary founder of modern India, Nehru served as the nation’s first prime minister from Independence in 1947 until his death. Nehru was a key leader not only of India’s independence struggle against Great Britain but of the unaligned nations of the Third World. His books include An Autobiography (1936) and The Discovery of India (1946).

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1938– )

Kenyan writer and political activist. In the 1970s, he was a key member of the Kamiriithu Community Center and Theatre, a collective effort to develop an authentic Kenyan peoples theatre in the Gikuyu language. In 1977, Ngũgĩ’s Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want) was performed in Kamiriithu’s open-air theatre. After being imprisoned, Ngũgĩ was driven into exile and the Kamiriithu theatre was literally leveled by the government in 1982. A novelist, essayist, playwright, and filmmaker, Ngũgĩ’s works include Petals of Blood (1977), Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981), Decolonising the Mind (1986), Moving the Centre (1993), Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams (1998), Murogi wa Kagogo (2004), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Speaks (2005), and Dreams in a Time of War (2010).

Barack Obama (1961– )

elected in 2008 as the forty-fourth President of the United States. A graduate of Harvard University, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. He then served from 2005 until his election to the presidency as a Senator from Illinois. Tempering many of the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama wound-down the war in Iraq and promised to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 2014. But the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains operational; the war against terror fought with drones and by unreliable allies continues. Obama is the first African-American US President. 

Ohno Kazuo (1906–2010 )

a founder, performer, and theorist of butoh. Ohno’s work is known for its intensity and delicacy. His written work in English includes: “Selections from the Prose of Kazuo Ohno” (1986), “Performance Text The Dead Sea” (1986), and Kazuo Ohno’s World (with Yoshito Ohno, 2004). Ohno gave his final public performance – using only his hands – in 2007.

Ong Keng Sen (1963– )

artistic director of Theatre Works Singapore, Ong has directed, taught, and curated performance in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and the Americas. In 1994, his Flying Circus Project embraced hybridity by engaging the encounter between contemporary urban arts and traditional performance. An example of his intercultural directing is the trilogy performed in Asia, Australia, and Europe inspired by Shakespeare and performed in several languages: Lear (1997), Desdemona (2000), and Search: Hamlet (2002). Search: Hamlet was Ong’s first collaboration using both Asian and European artists who together created what Ong calls “a coherent universe of difference on stage.” Ong took the Flying Circus Project to Ho Chi Minh City in 2007 and Phnom Penh in 2010.

Suzan-Lori Parks (1964– )

African-American writer whose plays include Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1989), The America Play (1993), Venus (1996), In the Blood (2000), TopDog/UnderDog (2001), 365 Days/365 Plays (2006), Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 8 & 9) (2009), and The Book of Grace (2010). Her Watch Me Work (2011) is "a meditation on the artistic process and an actual work session." As Parks sits in a public space working on her writing, the audience shares the space and writes their own stuff. During the last fifteen minutes of each session, Parks answers any questions people may have regarding their own work and creative process (http://www.suzanloriparks.com/watch-me-work).

John Ruskin (1819–1900)

English essayist whose Unto This Last (1862), a critique of capitalism, influenced Gandhi during his formative years in South Africa.

Anwar Sadat (1918-81)

president of Egypt from 1970 until his assassination by Islamicist army officers on 6 October 1981. A reformer, Sadat liberalized Egypt's economy, allowed a multi-party political system, and in 1979 signed a peace treaty with Israel. 

Roberto Sifuentes (1967– )

Chicano interdisciplinary performance artist from Los Angeles now based in New York. Sifuentes collaborated with Guillermo Gómez-Peña on several works including The Temple of Confessions (1994) Techno-Dioramas (1999). Sifuentes’ own work includes Undermining the Machine (2001) and The Virgin of Perpetual Security (2003).

Wole Soyinka (1934– )

Nigerian writer-in-exile and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature. Soyinka, a professor the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, stated in 2012 that he has been marked for assassination by Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant jihadist movement. Soyinka is author of plays, novels, poems, and critical works. His plays include The Swamp Dwellers (1959), Kongi’s Harvest (1965), and Death and King’s Horseman (1976). Among his other books are Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976), The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis (1996), Arms and the Arts – A Continent’s Unequal Dialogue (1999), and Climate of Fear: The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World (2005).

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007)

German avant-garde composer known for his serial and electronic compositions. In some works, Stockhausen gives freedom to performers to play his music in a variety of ways – scores read backwards or upside down, for example. His music has influenced a broad range of artists from The Beatles to Stravinsky. Among his major works: Kontrapunkte (Counterpoint, 1953), Gruppen (Groups, 1958), Mikrophonie (Microphones, 1964), Zodiac (1975–76), the seven-part opera, Licht (Light, 1977–2002), and from 2002 to his death, a cycle of 21 compositions, based on the hours of the day, entitled Clang ("Sound").  

Julie Taymor (1952– )

American theatre and film director, designer, and puppeteer. Taymor studied mime in Paris and puppetry in Indonesia, where in the 1970s she started her own group, Teatr Loh. Her work integrates live actors, puppets, and performing objects. For the stage Taymor’s work includes Juan Darien (1988), Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex (1992), The Green Bird (1996), The Lion King (1997), Grendel (2009), and Spider-Man (2010). Her films include Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (1999), a life of artist Frida Kahlo, Frida (2002), Across the Universe (2006), and The Tempest (2010).

James Thompson (1966–)

professor of Applied and Social Theatre at the University of Manchester. From 1992 as director of the Theatre in Prisons and Probation Centre, he ran theatre programs for criminal justice institutions in the UK, USA and Brazil. In 2000 in northern Sri Lanka, Thompson developed the In Place of War project – a research and practice based initiative that documents and supports performance projects in war and post-war zones. Thompson has run performance projects and conducted research in Brazil, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, and Sri Lanka. His books include Digging Up Stories (2005), Performance In Place of War (co-authored with Jenny Hughes and Michael Balfour) (2009), Performance Affects (2009), and Humanitarian Performance (2013).

Derek Walcott (1930– )

West Indian playwright and poet, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. Among his works are Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970), The Odyssey: A Stage Version (1993), The Prodigal (2004),  Another Life Fully Annotated (2004), and White Egrets (2010).

Abu Musab al Zarqawi (1966–2006)

the Jordanian founder-leader of al-Tawhid wal-Jihad – known as al Qaeda in Iraq – responsible for many suicide bombings and other attacks in Iraq, Morocco, and Jordan. In 2005, Zarqawi's group bombed three hotels in Amman, Jordan. In 2004, Zarqawi disseminated over the internet a videotape of him beheading Kenneth Bigley, an English engineer working in Iraq. Zarqawi was killed on 7 June 2006 while he was in a meeting when two US Air Force jets dropped two 500-pound guided bunker-busting bombs on a safehouse near Baqubah, Iraq. 


Globalisation and Interculturalism