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Undoing Mastery

Workshop of the research project „Reenacting Emotions II“ on the 25th & 26th of February 2022 at Refugio Berlin and online 

Mastery – a term that encompasses different manifestations and layers of meaning. On the one hand, it is inseparably linked to the history of colonialism, the exercise of power and domination, to systems of oppression. On the other hand, mastery may also be used in the sense of expertise or command of a language, an everyday practice or a trade. What then is the relationship between the different meanings and the uses of the term? In Unthinking Mastery (2018), literary scholar Julietta Singh points to the connection between mastery as enacted by colonisation, and other forms of mastery which we tend to think of as harmless, worthwile, even virtuous. Mastery is conspicuous at times; at others, it hides in plain sight Rather than a given, preexisting state of being, mastery must be enacted, reproduced and actualised by bodies in affective relation. Mastery requires action, execution and implementation. Mastery is “a certain form of human living that is woven tightly into the fabric of our worldviews” (Singh 2018: 173).

Undoing Mastery can be understood as the quest for practices that disrupt, stay or reverse these performances of power. Motivated by a sense of unease with the Hegelian dialectic of lordship and bondage, of master and servant, Undoing Mastery seeks to contest, subvert and obstruct the telos of command and domination. Our approach to this complex endeavor will take theatre as exemplary object, understood here as the dovetailing of institution, art form, technological dispositive and discursive process. What are the various forms of mastery inscribed in the theatre? What practices of undoing are conceivable; what practices have been tried?


Further information to follow