In July 2010 at the IFTR World Congress held in Munich, I sat listening to Helen Gilbert's keynote address: ‘Making Modernity: Indigenous Theatre and Salvage Ethnography’. Aside from the insightful specificities of Gilbert's topic, I was taken immediately by her methodological approach, which involved sifting back through reflections gained from postcolonial cultural studies, sharing the impulse of this work to look at cultures through a transversal lens and to posit their folding together through space and time, this with a view, for example, to challenging received ideas of indigenous cultures as traditional, the West as modern, and so forth. Broadly speaking, both the paper and the Q & A that followed it offered a timely and salutary reminder of how knowledge generation is often a sedimentary process: over time certain ideas get deposited and are endlessly mined; others get washed away or eroded. Moreover, this also means that we can find ourselves digging the same old theoretical spaces without looking at the local sites of theatre, performance or culture in ways that might persuade us to excavate elsewhere with different tools and methods. In brief, critical strategies, such as Gilbert's, that variously encourage us to revisit, rethink, rearrange, reconceptualize or recover are important strategies to keep in mind as means to renew and progress our contributions to bodies of theatre and performance knowledge.
(Online publication January 26 2012)