08 Sep 2009

£140,000 Leverhulme grant awarded to explore South African theatre

The Open University and The University of Warwick have been awarded more than £140,000 for a three-year research project exploring the role of South African theatre in contemporary identity formation.

The new project, entitled ‘Performing Memory: theatricalising identity in contemporary South Africa’, aims to explore how formal processes of remembering and recording the contested histories of South Africa – such as the Truth and Reconciliation hearings – are related to popular performative representations including plays, installations, memorials, film and TV, in the 're-membering' of a nation. The outcomes of the project will include a book, articles, and a new South African theatre archive at the Ferguson Centre.

The project is a collaboration between Professor Dennis Walder, Director of The Open University’s Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, and Dr Yvette Hutchison from the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick.

Professor Walder said: "This is the kind of collaborative initiative that sets up a model for future work in the field of drama and performance studies, crossing the divide between empirical and theoretical approaches to culture in postcolonial contexts."

The Leverhulme Research Project Grant will fund two full-time PhD students, one at each university, as well as travel and archival work.

Both Professor Walder and Dr Hutchison have wide experience of research and publication in the South African theatre context. They are currently finalising a special Africa Issue of Contemporary Theatre Review.

Editor's notes
• The Open University climbed 23 places to 43rd in the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), securing a place in the UK’s top 50 higher education institutions. Results showed that more than 50% of the University’s research is internationally excellent (3*), with a significant proportion world-leading (4*).

• There has been a 75% growth in competitively awarded research income at the OU over the last five years - a robust measure of our increasing research excellence.

• The Open University is the UK’s largest university and the world leader in distance education, and is this year celebrating its 40th anniversary. It has more than 200,000 students in over 40 countries. Of these, more than 1,100 are postgraduate research students.

• The latest edition of the Open University’s Research Highlights brochure can be downloaded from:

• Open Research Online (ORO), the University’s freely accessible repository of research publications, is available at: ORO is the 8th largest HEI repository in the UK, with around 30,000 visitors from 170 different countries each month.

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