Reflections on the BSA Local / Global Shakespeare Conference KCL 11-13 Sept 2009

 

Localizing Shakespeare in Asia group photo, BSA 2009 (c) Beatrice Lei

(I wrote these thoughts shortly after returning from this conference, before I had started blogging – but they are a beginner’s reflections, so fit in here)

LOCAL/GLOBAL SHAKESPEARE: The play on meanings in the conference title, which embraces concepts of Shakespeare at the local Globe theatre, Shakespeare’s dissemination and reception worldwide, and the localisation of Shakespeare in different cultures throughout the globe, made this conference both richly diverse and inevitably disappointing from the start. Despite the inclusive vision of the conference organisers, well, they just didn’t quite manage to convey it visually! Out of dozens of plenary speakers over the three days, all were white and most were British. Only Saturday morning’s Taiwan Bangzi Opera post-performance panel, speaking on their adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, followed by the address of Indian director, Rustom Barucha, was an exception. As a delegate from the Philippines said to the Chinese American and Japanese delegates over a pint at the end of the first day: ‘Don’t you feel a bit like a token here?!’ Likewise, the first breakout sessions mostly took place along the main corridor from the Great Hall, apart from Shakespeare and Africa which was up the stairs and around the corner next to the toilets. Oh yes, and Localizing Shakespeare in Asia, which was up more stairs, down several corridors and around so many corners that five of the speakers failed to arrive for the beginning of the session and had to have search parties sent out to retrieve them. I’m exaggerating for effect, of course, but you get the picture. There were fifteen Asian/Asian descent speakers in this Asia room and two auditors, one being me, the other a PhD student i.e. no one of note. Is it that no-one else was interested, or that they just gave up and stayed in Europe because it was easier to get to?! Perhaps the increase in women speakers at conferences shows that change does happen, but slowly. The question is: is it too slowly? Thus it is that my reflections have developed a certain theme….

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