Embodied Practices – Looking From Small Places
A Conversation between Sruti Bala and Dylan Kerrigan
“He (Trouillot) demanded not
only that we do research in
small places but also that
we look from them—a shift
from looking at a small unit to
looking from its place in the
(Agard-Jones, Vanessa. “Bodies in the System”,
Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, vol.17,
no. 3, November 2013, p. 183.)
“Embodied Practices – Looking From Small Places” is an edited transcript of a conversation between theatre and performance scholar Sruti Bala (University of Amsterdam) and sociologist, criminologist and anthropologist Dylan Kerrigan (University of Leicester) that took place as an online event in November 2020. Throughout their talk, Bala and Kerrigan engage with the legacy of Haitan anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot. Specifically, they focus on his approach of looking from small units, such as small villages in Dominica, outwards to larger political structures such as global capitalism, social inequalities and the distribution of power.
They also share insights from their own research on embodied practices in the Caribbean, Europe and India and answer questions such as: What can research on and through embodied practices tell us about systems of power and domination that move between the local and the global? How can performance practices which are informed by multiple locations and cultures be read and appreciated adequately?
Sharing insights from his research into Guyanese prisons, Kerrigan outlines how he aims to connect everyday experiences and struggles of Caribbean people to trans-historical and transnational processes such as racial capitalism and post/coloniality. Furthermore, he elaborates on how he uses performance practices such as spoken word poetry and data verbalisation to connect with systematically excluded groups. Bala challenges naïve notions about the inherent transformative potential of performance in her research on performance and translation. She points to the way in which performance and its reception is always already inscribed in what she calls global or planetary asymmetries.
At the conclusion of this conversation, they broach the question: are small places truly as small as they seem?
The online event took place on November 19, 2020 within the framework of the Minor Constellations in Conversation series organised by the current doctoral fellows of the RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms at Potsdam University, Free University and Humboldt University.