Posted on 03/05/2011
Dr Nesreen Hussein, who recently defended her PhD thesis, is awarded the 2011 Helsinki Prize by the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR). The prize is awarded each year on the basis of academic merit and strives to promote the exchange and networking of new scholars in developing regions and to encourage research in the field of theatre in their countries. It was founded by the student Congress Team of the 2006 IFTR World Congress in Helsinki. From 2011, it will be offered annually by the IFTR to a promising new scholar whose country of origin and of first degree-level studies is in Africa, Asia, South America or the Middle East.
Nesreen received the award for her essay titled ‘Patagonia: Rearticulating an Experience as a Site of Estrangement.’ The essay focuses on Patagonia (1992 by Brith Gof; reworked in 2008 by Pearson/Brookes); a performance that approaches a historically and culturally conditioned experience in a form of a disconnected narrative. The essay demonstrates that this form of mobilising structures of presentation has the potential to question linearity of meanings and to overcome imagined totality of a place. It reflects the mixing of effects embodied in one place, as in the Welsh Patagonian experience from the nineteenth century, which is a phenomenon of cultural hybridity common to contemporary societies that are often constituted by different layers of histories, peoples and cultures. The essay points out that in bringing to the fore the otherness of the past and the heterogeneity of experiences, the performance’s text that combines a multiplicity of multivocal narratives does indeed create an open and inclusive performance experience, but that is potentially alienating. It encourages active interrogation and self-reflexivity. It questions the linearity of dominant discourses of history, culture and identity, but at the risk of distancing the audience by rearticulating a culturally specific experience embedded in collective memory as a site of estrangement.
Nesreen is also awarded the second New Scholars’ Prize by the IFTR for the same essay, which is an annual essay competition for new scholars that awards the three best essays each year, judged on originality, coherence and rigour. She is invited to the IFTR’s annual conference in Osaka, Japan in August to receive both prizes. The conference this year is held under the theme ‘Tradition, Innovation, Community,’ and it’s where Nesreen will present a paper titled ‘An Urban Site of Rebellion: the Performative Dynamics of Resistance in Tahrir Square and their Role in Sustaining Narratives of Democracy’ as part of the conference’s New Scholars Forum. The paper looks at a certain aspect of the Egyptian uprising of 2011, focusing on the performative acts of resistance and their part in reclaiming senses of ownership, empowerment and belongingness to the Egyptian people.