Theaterwissenschaft München



Panel discussion "Theatre in Contested Democracy"

ERC research project "Performing Citizenship"


Whenever right-wing populism raises its head in the middle of European democracies, journalists, politicians and scholars alike speculate about ‚democracy in crisis‘ and the nearing end of liberal concepts of living. In a panel debate with three distinguished theatre scholars – Prof. Kati Röttger Prof. David Wiles and Prof. Wolf-Dieter Ernst – who propose their research on democracy and theatre as a starting point for discussion, we would like to explore the role of theatre in democratic societies. Is theatre a proper means, an utopian artform, a public forum for discourse, to foster, enrich, maybe even stabilize democratic societies? Or is it owed to theatre’s spectacle that we see an erosion of the idea of aesthetic representation, but also of political representation? Might theatre’s critical stance to society instead of initiating change rather support a gesture of withdrawal from politics? How does theatre subscribe to a cultural elitism that supports the social divide? Or is theatre the one major medium that can help building society, reaching over social gaps? How can theatre institutions become immune to anti-democratic attacks? Do they act as guardians of democratic practice? How democratic are they on the inside?
Starting from particular historical moments in theatre, together with our guests, we will investigate these questions to maybe gain a better understanding of theatre and democracy today. Welcome!

Logo Performing CitizenshipERC Logo

Prof. Kati Röttger, University of Amsterdam, Chair of Theatre Studies
Prof. em. David Wiles, University of Exeter
Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Ernst, University of Bayreuth
And the members of the ERC research project "Performing Citizenship"

Where and when
9 October 2023, 1-4pm
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Georgenstr. 11, room 109


Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Ernst is professor of theatre at the University of Bayreuth. He has published widely on post-dramatic theatre, performance, media art, and the history of actor's training. He is review editor of the journal Forum Modernes Theater, and his books include Der affektive Schauspieler. Die Energetik des postdramatischen Theaters (Theater der Zeit 2012), and Performance der Schnittstelle. Theater unter Medienbedingungen. (Passagen Publishers 2003). Most recently, he has edited together with Anja Klöck the special volume Spielräume professionellen Schauspielens (Forum Modernes Theater, Tübingen 2022). Wolf-Dieter Ernst has also contributed substantially to the IFTR Intermediality and Historiography research groups and he is the convenor (with Anja Klöck) of the German Society for Theatre Research working group on Actor’s training.

Prof. Dr. Kati Röttger is professor and chair for theatre studies at the University of Amsterdam. is professor and chair of the Institute of Theatre Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on new dramaturgy, postcolonial theatre, theatre and media, spectacle, most recently: „Spektakel: Plädoyer für die Revision eines umstrittenen Begriffs“ Internationale Zeitschrift für Komparatistik, 8, 9-23, 2022. Her books include Kollektives Theater als Spiegel lateinamerikanischer Identität. La Candelaria und das neue kolumbianische Theater. Vervuert Verlag, Frankfurt/M. 1992 and Welt - Bild - Theater (2 edited vol., Tübingen 2010 and 2012). She has edited the special issue Gender & Performance (Jaarboek voor vrouwengeschiedenis, Amsterdam 2012).

Prof. Dr. David Wiles is emeritus professor of drama at the University of Exeter. He is a theatre historian who has widely published on the theatres of Greeces and Elizabethan England and more recently the European Enlightenment. He is currently working on his new book Democracy as Theatre: from the Greeks to Gandhi (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press. He is author of The Players’ Advice to Hamlet: the method of rhetorical acting from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Theatre and Citizenship: The History of a Practice Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Together with Christine Dymkowksi he has edited The Cambridge Companion to Theatre History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).