Keynote speakers

Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte - Conference Guest of Honor

Prof. Fischer-Lichte is Director of the Interweaving Performance Cultures Institute at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Since 1990, Prof. Fischer-Lichte has been Professor of Theatre Studies at the Free University of Berlin, where she directs the Institute for Theatre Studies. Professor Fischer-Lichte is also the Chair of the German Society for Semiotics, President of the (German) Society for Theatre Studies, and German Member of the Standing Committee for the Humanities and European Science Foundation for Theatre Research, previous President of the International Federation for Theatrte Research (FIRT).

She has published numerous monographs and articles, principally on the semiotics of theatre, and also studies of Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas and Prinz Friedrich von Homburg. In 1990, she edited, with Josephine Riley and Michael Gissenwehrer, The Dramatic Touch of Difference: Theatre, Own and Foreign (Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen), which includes significant essays for the study of ancient theatre in contemporary performance. More recently, in 1997, Prof. Fischer-Lichte published The Show and the Gaze of Theatre: A European Perspective, University of Iowa Press. Fischer-Lischte's most recent book entitled The Transformative Power of Performance is published by Routledge in 2008.


Interweaving Cultures in Performance –
The Emergence of New Theatrical Communities

The paper will bring together two strands of research: on the one hand, my theory of performance, and on the other the research on processes of interweaving performance cultures (what otherwise is called research on intercultural theatre). My theory of performance focuses the bodily co-presence of actors and spectators, i.e. the interactions between the two groups out of which the performance comes into being. This is to say that in the course of a performance communities between actors and spectators or between different groups of spectators may emerge and later dissolve.
Research on processes of interweaving performance cultures – or on intercultural theatre –, so far, has emphasized the new performance aesthetics that this way came into being and has discussed the question of the legitimacy of ‘borrowing’ or ‘stealing’ elements from another performance culture in order to incorporate them in performances of one’s own. I am going to raise another issue. As far as we can see, exchange between different performance cultures always has taken place. In a globalizing world such an exchange increases, so that processes of interweaving happen across the world – be it in multicultural performance groups, be it through travelling artists, be it on guest tours and international festivals, to name just a few.
If in performances not only existing communities display and confirm their cultural identity, but in any performance a ‘new’ kind of community may emerge, comprising actors and spectators or only different groups of spectators, what does such a community, brought forth in and by performances, accomplish that comes into being out of such interweaving processes? Since it dissolves at latest when the performance is over, can its experience have any longer lasting effects? Can it be regarded as an aesthetic anticipation of some kind of utopia?
These and related questions will be discussed.

Dr. Salah Moukhlis

Salah Moukhlis is an associate professor of cultural studies and world literatures at California State University San Marcos. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies from SUNY Stony Brook. His areas of interest include postcolonial theory and literatures, critical theory, and cultural studies with a focus on Maghrebian literature. His publications include articles in specialized journals on Tahar Ben Jelloun, Driss Chraibi, Leila Abouzeid, Mohamed Choukti, Abdelkader Chaoui, Assia Djebar, and Kateb Yacine among others. He is completing a collection of critical essays on the Maghrebian novel.


In the Margins of History: Moroccan Resistance Narratives and the Canons of Postcoloniality

As a revisionary project, postcolonial discourse, in confluence with other subversive discourses that challenge the centrality and epistemic dominance of Europe, created a space where many established scoio-historical, cultural, and identitarian assumptions have been destabilized and corrected to usher in newly-formed hybrid and pluralized identities. This paper argues that the promise that accompanied the rise of postcolonial discourse is a highly elusive enterprise that has in fact created its own orthodoxies and canons and remains very selective in its subject matter. The paper will engage the paradoxes and limitations of postcolonial theory and discourse through readings of Moroccan prison narratives. The paper further argues that because of cultural, linguistic, and colonial legacies, Moroccan literature is only very minimally impacted by the common tenets of postcoloniality prevalent in the Anglophone world. Instead, the bulk of Moroccan creative and critical endeavors remains trapped within poststructuralist and textual pedagogies that, the paper further contends, create a dangerous wedge between the text, its readers, and its outside relationships. On the other hand the lack of a meaningful relationship between writer, reader, and critic has also created a vacuum that has been filled by equally elusive, febrile, and intransigent indigenous narratives of identity.

Dr. Oumelbanine Zhiri

Born in Tangier, Oumelbanine Zhiri studied French and Comparative Literature in Paris. She taught for a few years in Morocco, and is currently Professor at the University of California, San Diego. She has published two books on Leo Africanus (L’Afrique au Miroir de l’Europe, Fortunes de Jean Léon l’Africain à la Renaissance, Geneva, Droz, 1991, and Les Sillages de Jean Léon l’Africain du XVI° au XX° siècle, Casablanca, Wallada, 1995), as well as a book on François Rabelais (L’Extase et ses paradoxes, Paris, Champion, 1999). Among her main research interests are the cultural exchanges between Europe and North Africa and the Middle East, especially during the early modern period (15th to 18th century). Her passion for Leo Africanus and Rabelais is undiminished, but she has also written on Ibn Khaldûn, Edward Saïd, and other less well-known authors, such as Jean de Léry or La Mothe le Vayer. She is particularly interested in studying the construction of a first modernity in the Renaissance, and the phenomenon of Eurocentrism in the human sciences. She thus combines commitment to historical and archival research, with engagement with theoretical concerns.

The first building by Europeans of their enormous archive on the Orient, at the time of the Renaissance, is a remarkable phenomenon; in order to understand it one has to look at how ambiguous objects travel between cultures. Commodities are traded and seized, bodies and souls excite the covetousness of the pirate, the redeemer, or the evangelist, coins and manuscripts are eagerly searched, bought and stolen.
The creation of institutions for constructing a knowledge about the East (and first mainly the Islamic East), is part of the great change in the procedures devised to produce scholarship and science that is called the Renaissance. In this dynamic field, the lines between the scholarly, the political and the religious are very fine. The Reconquista, piracy, the competition between empires, the efforts at evangelization, are not just the political background to the emergence of the field of Oriental studies in Europe, they are also the conditions of its possibility.
Almost forgotten in this history is the role of people coming from Oriental countries. They could be the Christians who came from Syria and Egypt to teach and publish in Paris or Rome since the 17th century; they could belong to the network of contacts in North Africa and the Levant who helped European scholars gather information, manuscripts, and objects ; finally they could be converts from Islam and Judaism who left Spain and Muslim countries, Leo Africanus being just one of the most famous among them. All participated more or less directly to the foundation and development of Oriental Studies in Europe.

Dr. Julia Banzi

Dr. Julia Banzi is an ethnomusicologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Banzi is an Ethnomusicologist especially interested in constructing historical ethnographies—that is seeking ways in understanding how the long past influences and shapes present musical changes. The two main geographic areas she explores are North Africa and Spain. Her special interest is the melding of varied cultures and religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) converging in Al-Andalus (711-1492). In Morocco, her focus is on women’s Andalusian ensembles. In Spain, she focuses on the flamenco guitar tradition and the processes of when, why, and how performance traditions become obsolete. Co-artistic director of the international performance ensemble Al-Andalus (,, artist, composer and one of a very few female flamenco guitarists worldwide, her work reflects her over twenty years of living, studying and performing in North Africa and Spain. Julia is a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar who teaches at Reed College and Lewis & Clark College and is honored to share her work with you!


While the historical record is rich with mention of women Andalusian musicians of the 9th-13th centuries CE, there is a notable scholarly void documenting the existence and significance of Andalusian women’s ensembles during the seven centuries that followed. What became of these female musicians and their traditions?
The classical Andalusian musical repertoire is thought to have descended directly from the courtly music of Islamic Spain (711-1492 AD). It is considered by many scholars to be one of the longest continuous traditions of art music in the world. With few exceptions scholarly literature on Andalusian music focuses exclusively on the male version of the tradition. And yet, women musicians are connected to the very “origins” of Andalusian music, the search for which has been the central concern of much of the scholarship related to Andalusian music. Did they cease to exist? Were they collectively forgotten or simply deemed unworthy of remembrance?
This presentation explores how both recent and older Iberian memories continue to influence the dynamics of collective assembly; in this case gender-separated women’s Andalusian events involving music. It documents the phenomenon of female ensembles and explores factors that have contributed to their persistence over the centuries. Based on historical and ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco that included interviews with dozens of ensemble musicians, I explore the special status that independent women's ensembles hold in Moroccan society, the intersections of gender and music tradition, and what the presence of these ensembles suggests about broader socio-political and religious arrangements in Islamic Morocco. I contend that the existence of women’s musical traditions, previously undocumented by Arab and Western scholars, should lead us to reconceptualize intersections of history, memory, music, religion, gender and identity.