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Locating an Indigenous ethos in ecological performance

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Stories are powerful forms of representation and cultural imagery in many Indigenous cultures, and performance is a site where these stories are shared, revealed and enacted, making it a powerful site of cultural imagery for Indigenous ecological knowledges and cosmologies. I argue that an Indigenous ecological ethos is a necessary addition to thinking about performance and ecology, one that resists patronizing and simplistic stereotypes of the ‘eco-Indian’ and acknowledges diverse, complex and evolving epistemologies. Drawing on Huggan and Tiffin’s postcolonialism ecocriticism, as well as May and Kuppers experience as non-Indigenous scholars and practitioners, this article considers the role postcolonial ecology might play in the field of performance and ecology and how non-indigenous scholars and theatremakers might engage with it. I suggest strategies for locating an Indigenous ecological ethos, through Däwes, Nolan, Howe and Halba and their critical reflections on Indigenous performances specifically attuned to ecological concerns. I draw on plays and performances that highlight the inseparability of land, identity and morethan- human (Salmon is Everything, NK603: Action for Performer & e-Maiz, Woman for Walking); work that is non-linear and recognizes the simultaneity of past, present and future (Burning Vision, Chasing Honey); and work that takes up ecological justice issues (Sila). These aspects suggest ways of locating an Indigenous ecological ethos and developing a more multivocal and inclusive field of performance and ecology.
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Keywords: Indigenous ecology; Native drama; eco-performance; ecological ethos; ecological justice; postcolonial ecocriticism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Publication date: 2015-07-01

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  • Performing Ethos is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal which considers ethical questions relating to contemporary theatre and live performance. Global in scope, it provides a unique forum for rigorous scholarship and serious reflection on the ethical dimensions of a wide range of performance practices from the politically and aesthetically radical to the mainstream.
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