From her roots in Performance Studies, the body of Katharina Pewny's research is located within the following three areas: 1. theatre history (Greek classics), 2. contemporary theatre, performance and dance, and 3. new media and communication technologies. Especially the ethical, political and social aspects of the Performing Arts and Media are of interest. This includes collective (transnational) memory and theatre history, ritual and spirituality, and economic and institutional dynamics. Therefor she studies both production processes and performances. Recently, she is particularly compelled by Ritual Studies and Interreligious Theatre, and was awarded with a research sabbatical by the Flemish Research Funds to write her 3rd book, a monograph on the topic "Spirits of Performance". She invites Ma-, PhD- and postdoctoral projects on the above mentioned and related topics.
In her doctoral thesis (Vienna University 2000), Katharina Pewny studied constructions of gender within contemporary theatre texts. For this research, she applied Plato's, Theodor W. Adorno's and Luce Irigaray's theories of "mimesis" to the artistic corpus. In her Habilitation thesis (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz 2009) on the “Theatre of the Precarious”, Katharina Pewny developed the concept of the “precarious” as a new analytical category for Performance Studies. The shadows of the Holocaust on todays stages played an important role in this, analyzed by her as "posttraumatic" theatre. In the course of this project she has translated Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics into the realm of performance. For this research project she received the highest funding awards given by Austrian funding institutions.
Katharina Pewny created a firm link between Performance Studies and Ethics, for her book on the "Theatre of the Precarious. The Return of Ethics in Theatre and Performance", published in 2011, was among the first monographs on this topic. This expertise she brought to Ghent University in 2009. Her, and her teams, current research focusses are religion and spirituality; death, the image, sexuality, and transformation of form; the dialogue and multilinguality dramaturgies in the context of migration; and precartiy as aesthetics, working and living modes. Together with Kornee van der Haven (Ugent) and Inge Arteel (Free University Brussels), she is convenes the Joint Research Group THALIA. Interplay of Theatre, Literature and Media in Performance; and together with Christel Stalpaert (Ghent University), she is a director of the research group S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media). Pewny is principal investigator of the FWO funded research project "Choreographies of Precariousness" that bridges Dance Studies and Art Sociology, that is due to her interest in social contexts of the contemporary performing arts.
Katharina Pewny is a convener of the Working Group Dramaturgy (German Society for Theatre Research), a member of the international advisory board of the Elfriede Jelinek research centre (Vienna University), a member of the "Religion, Spirituality and Performance Working Group" of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) and a member of the editorial board of the journals Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies DiGeSt and of the journal Theatertijdschrift Documenta. Since 2016, she is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Forum Modernes Theater and “Performance, Religion, Spirituality.” Also, she is a board member of the "New Institute for Dramatic Writing" (Berlin), see http://nids.eu/
She is also editor of the following publication series:
She is peer reviewer for funding institutions, international journals and publishing houses in Belgium, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, in the UK, in the US, and in Canada. Currently, she is editing special issues of the following journals: Modern Drama (together with Yana Meerzon and Gunther Martens) on "Dramaturgies of the Self. Language, Authorship, Migration" and Dance Research Journal on "Work With(Out) Boundaries" (together with Annelies van Assche and Simon Leenknegt); and an anthology on mulilingual dramaturgies (together with Yana Meerzon) for Routledge.
Since 2007, Katharina Pewny engages herself as a co-curator of theatre festivals and artistic work. She is, for example, a member of the NIDS (Neues Institut für Dramatisches Schreiben Berlin).