Spirits of performance. Traces of ritual and religion in contemporary theatre in Europe

Start - End 
2016 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Art, music and theatre sciences



This project contains the writing of a monography for which Katharina Pewny has been awarded with a research sabbatical by the Flemish Research Funds (FWO, in the academic year 2016/17).

The idea for this project originated in the observation of the striking presence in contemporary theatre in Europe of performative practices that go beyond secular dimensions. Many theatre and performance pieces refer to implicit beliefs, ideologies or convictions about what it means to be human, to relate to each other, to be connected beyond the individual contact, that is, in a transpersonal way; in short, they deal with transcendental issues that have, in former times, been contained in religious convictions and practices. Whereas most current discourses on contemporary theatre stress its political and ethical dimensions, I am interested in tracking the religious values, norms and traditions that lie hidden in these performances: they are intertwined with politics and ethics, and they go beyond these ‘worldly’ dimensions. First research results have been presented at the conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research at Stockholm University in June 2016 in the working group "Spiritualiy and Religion in Performance".