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L'agent devient l'acteur : un regard sur les méthodes du Théâtre de l'Opprimé et la notion de l'habitus chez Pierre Bourdieu

By Maureen Winter

From the Faculty Nominator:

Maureen Winter wrote this thesis (directed by Constance Moreteau of the Université Paris Ouest - Nanterre) as part of her semester-long internship in Paris at the Theatre of the Oppressed. "Theatre cannot change the world" says one of Maureen's interview subjects, and her thesis is in many ways her own spirited response. The goal of these internship theses is to integrate the analysis of ideas with insights drawn directly from fieldwork. Addressing the points of intersection between Pierre Bourdieu and Augusto Boal, Maureen explores each author's engagement with Aristotelian thought and focuses on embodiment and agency as key themes that link their work. Maureen offers a novel perspective by showing how the insights of each author are complementary. With Bourdieu, she is able to link Boal's attention to the mechanics of performance with a sociological analysis of power and inequality. At the same time, the creativity of Boal's theatre highlights the agency of actors that is often neglected by interpretors of Bourdieu focusing only on social reproduction. In exploring the transformative potential of Boal's theatrical method, she devotes special attention to forum theatre, where actors perform a scene describing some kind of social conflict and ask audience members to step in and play it differently to find a solution. I am particularly fond of her conclusion - and will leave it to the reader to discover! In it, she weaves together the insights from her research and internship in ways that are both skillful and convincing. A pleasure to read!

From the author:

While spending a semester abroad in Paris during the Spring of 2012 I worked as an intern at the Théâtre de l'Opprimé, a small theater that uses participatory theater practices to promote social change.  A requirement of my program, Internships in Francophone Europe, was that each student produce a 30-page research paper on a topic relating to their internship work.  I chose to incorporate the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's concept of habitus into my work, navigating the intersection of sociology and contemporary theater practices in France.  In an attempt to prove that the Théatre de l'Opprimé's practices enable participants to make visible their own habitus, I describe several theatrical techniques incorporated into the TDO's method.  Through both intensive research of existing scholarship and participant observation I am able to begin to address the question of habitus as it relates to participatory theater in contemporary France.

 

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