Theatre of the Oppressed in Neoliberal Times

From Che Guevara to the Uber driver

Authored by: Julian Boal

The Routledge Companion to Theatre of the Oppressed

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138291027
eBook ISBN: 9781315265704
Adobe ISBN:


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There is a fundamental paradox in the Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). 1 This “rehearsal of revolution”—which was created to serve as a tool in the struggles that sought to take on capital or at least imperialism headfirst—did not suffer from the ebb of politics; rather, it experienced dizzying expansion. Nowadays there is virtually no country or issue unknown to TO. How can this paradox be explained? Generally, it is explained by the fact that TO contemplates universal aspects of experience (the will to act, the desire to transform one’s life, etc.). We do not deny that this explanation is partially true, but we do not believe that it exhausts the reasons for this expansion because it does not fully account for the innumerable cases for using TO which can in no way be called emancipatory. Another explanation, also equally partial but less explored, is that the success of TO is not due to its critical disposition in relation to the dominant way of life, but rather to the fact that TO reproduces significant traits of dominant subjectivity. To use the capacious expression of José Soeiro, TO is perhaps less the opposite of this world than its shadow. It is this hypothesis that we will explore here, knowing, of course, just how limited it may be.

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