Virality, Plurality, and the Future of Discourse: A Conversation with Rustom Bharucha

This interview was conducted in June 2023 at Yale University through the support and generosity of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, UCLA, and ATHE; it has been edited for clarity and length.


Carla Neuss (CN): So, the first thing I would love to talk about is your Theatre Journal article on Shakespeare. It was published all the way back in 2004, but it was really exciting for us as the editors to get the data on the most cited pieces in the history of the journal and see that yours was one of them. And I think in your email you said that was news to you, how influential it has been. So, I’d love to talk about that essay and if you feel that we are still having those same struggles with intercultural theatre today? Have we moved the needle at all?

I would also love to hear you speak about your latest book, The Second Wave [Seagull Books, 2022], and how you see the pandemic affecting the discourse in our field. Then I want to pick up on something that came up when we spoke previously, about the term “diversity.” And, finally, I am thinking about the role of scholarship in terms of publications and articles over the course of your career and would love to hear your thoughts on that as well as the new media approaches you’ve been using.

Rustom Bharucha (RB): Thank you very much for this opportunity to have a conversation with you. I’d like to begin by congratulating Theatre Journal. You’re celebrating your 75th anniversary, and I think that’s quite a record. Theatre Journal has been a solid resource for theater academic research over the years. I mean, one always turns to Theatre Journal as a point of reference, and it’s been sustained through any number of editors. I like the feeling that it has not been stuck with one editor. I think that the “one editor syndrome” can go terribly wrong because that one editor more often than not calls the shots. Instead, I respond more positively to a systematized turnover of editors. This seems to be more organic, more democratic. And so, congratulations to Theatre Journal for sustaining itself over the years with several editorial visions.

I’d like to reflect a little bit on journals. So, in my youth, I used to read journals like Theatre Quarterly, before it became New Theatre Quarterly, and other journals as well. And there was something very topical about these journals; you felt that it was of the here and now. Unfortunately, because of the mechanisms of the publishing industry today, things have changed a great deal. So, all the copy of any issue has to come in much earlier and it takes a long time before articles get published, which means it’s very difficult for journals now to retain that earlier kind of immediacy and topicality, because there are new pressures in terms of publishing and marketing. In effect, a lot of journals today are like books. They’re no different. When I write for a journal, I sometimes feel, “I’m putting in as much work in this article as I would if I had been writing a chapter in my own book.” There are too many editorial demands, contracts to be signed, permissions for copyright, back-and-forth correspondence, and so on. I think it is a sign of our times that journals, in a sense, are in jeopardy. They’re under duress as there are new kinds of demands in the publishing world for a quick turnover of issues.

Having acknowledged this, I must say that Theatre Journal has retained some of its vibrant identity as a journal. It continues to provide a mix of things: there are scholarly articles, book and performance reviews, which are really important. Looking back, my first review [for Theatre Journal] was on a production of The Inspector General. Although I haven’t written much for Theatre Journal, I’ve consulted it for my research, especially for my recent book on the pandemic where you have published some very formative essays on disease and performance.

My main contribution to Theatre Journal has been an essay I have left far behind, but which I think continues to be read called “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare: Dissenting Notes on New Asian Interculturality, Postcoloniality and Recolonization.” I had a great time working on it with Jean Graham-Jones. She was my editor. We shared an easy and convivial writer-editor relationship. I appreciated our dialogue. I just heard from your editor—and now from you—that this is one of Theatre Journal’s most cited essays. I had no idea. I’m not a Shakespearean scholar as such, although Shakespeare is so important, and probably the only lines from a play that I really know by heart are soliloquies from Shakespeare’s plays, which one learned by heart at school in Kolkata in what could be described as a “colonial” education. But at least it has enabled me to remember those soliloquies. And I think one is enriched by them.

In retrospect, the essay on “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare” was a take, I guess, on different aspects of interculturality in relation to performance. I have been writing about interculturalism for a very long time; in the Theatre Journal essay, I focused on an interculturality that was mediated by what I would call new Asian politics, a type of inter-Asian cultural politics. I focused on the work of Ong Keng Sen, who is a major figure in that field, and on the way in which he was trying to generate this kind of aesthetic by bringing together artists from different parts of Asia. At one level, this is a wonderful idea when one considers that, initially, interculturalism in the 1970s operated on an East-West axis. So those of us who were located in the so-called East and non-Western cultures inevitably landed up either in the UK or in the US or in Europe for intercultural workshops, because that’s where the money was available for our air fares and fees. Inevitably, we got framed within those dominant paradigms of funding and sponsorship. I thought that when this inter-Asian kind of cultural ethos came into being there would be a paradigmatic shift, not least because the people who were promoting it were well aware of the critiques around Eurocentricity. But sadly, I found that (as I’ve said in that article) Asiacentricity could be the other side of the same coin as Eurocentricity. So, it’s not as if because you’re from Asia, or located in Asia, that you’re necessarily going to find a more equitable kind of relationship. That, I think, is what I tried to point out in that section on New Asian interculturality.

I also focused on some of the limitations that I found in a postcolonial critique of Othello, which was put forward by a famous postcolonial critic from India, Ania Loom-ba.1 I have often had a problem with literary theory; literary theory and performance theory are not necessarily in sync, because what can happen in performance may complicate or subvert or texture some of the norms of literary theory. So, I felt Loomba’s reading was somewhat too deterministic. Interestingly, in my writings (you may be familiar with Theater and the World [New Delhi : Manohar Publications, 1990]), I never used postcoloniality as an operative category, even though what I was engaging with in terms of appropriation, in terms of decontextualization, in terms of cultural tourism, are postcolonial issues. But I didn’t work within the academic discursive framework of postcolonialism as outlined in literary theory. Perhaps, because I was never taught postcoloniality as a subject in my curriculum at the Yale School of Drama, where I was a student in the late 1970s. I had no other option but to think and feel my own way through this theoretical terrain in relation to my own experience of theatre and cultural background in India.

The last part of “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare” on recolonization was perhaps the harshest part of the critique because it dealt with, I’m afraid, a very revered scholar in the field, John Russell Brown. He believed that “it’s in India that you’re going to find Shakespeare in its most authentic source,” which is a load of nonsense because the popular theatrical traditions of India have their own kind of agendas and their own agencies, their own complications and limitations, their own genealogies.2 So I felt that this was another kind of essentialization that we need to avoid as far as possible. Funnily, to give you an update, this essay, “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare” has been appreciated by scholars in the field of law and humanities. I have friends from the law school at the University of Melbourne where there’s a very flourishing program on law and humanities; these guys know more about Greek tragedy than we would ever know in our lives. They’re really sharp. And I was intrigued by their interest in the essay. I said, “Why would you want to and what would you get out of an essay like ‘Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare’?” I think one of the scholars said it was the mode of writing, the narrative mode that interested them. I really am not in a position to elaborate on that, but that’s what he told me. In response, I can only say that narrative modes are really important to me. It’s not just what you write, it’s how you write and in what framework you write. This is important.

Let me turn now to my writing on the pandemic. In dealing with the pandemic—and I engaged with the pandemic for over three years as a writer—it really took over my life. During the first lockdown in 2020, when there was this eerie silence in my normally chaotic and cacophonous street in Kolkata, I found myself thinking about the relationship between theatre and the virus. Significantly, I was not necessarily numbed by the pandemic; I was energized and indignant and angry because in the global discourse that was circulating around the pandemic, there was no mention of theatre, at least in the beginning. Theatre was a singular absence and that made me feel indignant and angry. Where the hell is it? Why is theatre being so erased? And, of course, the reason for that is only too clear: there was no theatre. All theatres had shut down across the world, which I do believe is a matter of great historical significance. This has never happened before in the history of theatre. Even during the Spanish flu around 1918–1919, which was a lot more severe than the pandemic that we have suffered, theatres and cinema houses remained open in many cities in the world, in Kolkata, in Bombay, in London, in New York. On studying this phenomenon, one begins to wonder, what was this compulsion that made people go to the theatre at that time when people were dying “like flies”? Did it have something to do with the fact that people were already exhausted and burned out by the war? The war had come to an end in 1918. Millions had died. Everything was devastated, yet people went to the theatre in large numbers to see any number of plays including escapist musical extravaganza. In London, the longest running play was an Orientalist spectacle called Chu Chin Chow that ran for over two thousand performances. And so, I began to think about these kinds of issues in relation to the global closure of theatre in our times.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that theatre should not have shut down during the pandemic. That would be a somewhat irresponsible, if not adventurist kind of position. But I think there should have been debate, there should have been dialogue, there should have been negotiation, because what are theatre people going to do if the theatres shut down? What are artists going to do if they lose their livelihood? We saw the consequences of that closure, which were pretty awful. With that kind of indignation about the global closure of theatres in our times, I just started to think—and I have a huge reservoir of memories and thoughts on theatre, which I’ve been living with for most of my life. How does one write about this historical moment? What is the narrative mode? I found myself creating a nine-episode video lecture.3 I’ve never done that before in my life. And so, it makes you realize that the pandemic compelled us to think differently, to write differently. It was almost as if the virus was in us. And it was mutating with a lot of speed.

I found myself writing the script of the video lecture series very, very fast. The post-production was rather slow, but the production itself was fast. So that was one kind of narrative mode: a video speech-act. Significantly, I did not want the lectures to be published like a book or a monograph. I was very clear: I wanted to speak these lectures. I wanted to face the camera and I wanted to share my thoughts with people in an embodied way. It was a very strong instinct. I still have the full text of my lectures, but I haven’t published it. In my lectures used in the video, I made an obligatory comment: that the lectures would be published, that I would ‘write them up’, as we say. Well, I didn’t write them up because in March 2021 we were hit by the second wave of the pandemic. And between April and May 2021, we lost 166,623 individuals in India, which is devastating. More people died in those two months than in the previous year. 

The second wave was a completely different experience for me, and instead of being indignant or wanting to talk about theatre, I just became numb. I was just totally numbed by the omnipresence of death surrounding me. And I felt I had to get into a different narrative mode, and I needed to write. That was the only language I had because I couldn’t talk about what was going on. It was too difficult. The scale of the pandemic in the second wave was totally out of joint with time. And that’s when I realized that writing and speaking are deeply interrelated, even as they are different modes of expression. You might, for instance, find a “speaking voice” in my writing, and many readers have commented on that. There can also be a “writing voice” in speech. It can work both ways. But sometimes there’s a need to speak in a speech-act, and sometimes there’s a need to write.

So, during the second wave, I got into a completely different mode. And just to give you a few traces of the process…I began, I think, with four words: “no time to mourn.” Those words came very quickly to me. It’s the title of the second chapter of the book. I found myself writing in an essay mode because the essay enables one to shift perspectives and make associations across diverse contexts. During the second wave, I felt adrift, and this was best captured at a visceral level in the form of the essay. I couldn’t write as if I was in command of the narrative. Keep in mind that I was writing about the pandemic at a time while the pandemic was unfolding. So, it’s a narrative in the present continuous tense. I’ve never done this for any of my earlier books, which normally take three years to be completed. But, in The Second Wave, I felt a certain compulsion just to follow the moment and to see how it affected me.

After “No Time to Mourn,” I began to work on specific motifs. This is characteristic of much of my writing. For example, in one of my books, Another Asia [New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006], it was very clear that the motifs were “Asia,” “nationalism,” “cosmopolitanism,” and “friendship.” Even before starting to write the book, I knew that these four motifs would shape the four chapters of the book. In The Second Wave, I wanted to work with death. I had to begin with death. That was the dominant reality: what followed was grief, mourning and extinction. So, it was around those four motifs that I began to enter a sort of inner space and respond to whatever was happening on the computer screen; I was taking in a lot of images of the pandemic in India, in cremation grounds and elsewhere, dead bodies embedded in the riverbanks of the Ganga. All these painful and terrifying images compelled me to think. So that was my writing mode.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to write that book today. It was too exhausting at an emotional level even though it was written in two to three months. I don’t think I could ever write about the pandemic like an authority, like some kind of academic pundit. I had to find my own way of connecting to the pandemic and relating it to many other aspects of life in the theatre and beyond the theatre.

CN: The book was so powerful to read, and I think it is one of the first books that that I’ve seen in our field come out in response to the pandemic. I think it’s so timely and is one of the first in what is going to be an ongoing conversation.

RB: It’s funny, that having gone into this writing mode, and I didn’t want to talk about the narrative at that time; now I want to talk about it. There’s a need, a social need to share the process that went into the narrative. I’ve never been reluctant to share moments of vulnerability or pain in my life. I don’t have a difficulty with that. But academic protocols can interfere with the sharing of pain. That’s why I find the essay a somewhat more liberating and organic mode of writing because I work a lot through associations. So, The Second Wave is a book that covers a very wide spectrum of thoughts, from photography, through artistic mourning practices, into dance, ultimately leading to reflections on breath. All of this is interwoven. It’s not like I had a master plan or anything like that. I allowed these associations to emerge in the act of writing.

So, as you can sense, the very act of writing becomes very important for me. It’s a kind of performance, you could say, but it’s not a performance where you’re facing the camera, as I did in my nine-episode speech-act on the pandemic in its first phase. It’s more of an inner performance, a psychophysical and reflexive mode of thinking. Significantly, I didn’t censor myself in this book; I allowed it to go where it had to go. And then at some point, I had to stop. So, it’s not a massive book; it’s a long essay, as I describe it, with many twists and turns. Now when I look back on it, there are other things that I would want to include in the narrative, but I wouldn’t be able to write about them in that essay format. The writing would be very different because that moment of “the second wave” has passed, even as the pandemic still lingers at subterranean levels.

I wish we could process that moment more deeply. This is so important to keep in mind. I don’t think we’ve processed the fact that it was not possible to mourn when millions of people were dying. And if you don’t mourn, then there’s a consequence in terms of grief. What happens to grief? Does it get locked? Does it go underground? Does it result in other kinds of traumas? Sadly, we have such an impatience in terms of getting on with life or returning to the so-called “normal,” when the normal, frankly, was what precipitated the pandemic. In our understanding of the normal, one must include global warming, genetic engineering, deforestation, marketing—all of which precipitated certain kinds of tipping points in the way this virus jumped species. At one level, this is such an extraordinary phenomenon and yet it’s so subtle and invisible at the same time. I never wanted to talk about the pandemic as an epidemiologist, which I am not to begin with. And yet I had to respect the lessons that were being learned from science. Scientists themselves were out of their depth. The virus was so tricky. We were trying to catch up with it. The way it was moving, mutating. So, it was a profound learning experience for me.

If you ask me what is the takeaway today, which is maybe hinted at in the book, I would say that through my working and living with the pandemic in this writing mode, I’ve developed a new kind of awareness of and sensitization to the non-human and planetary dimensions of life. I don’t think it’s sufficient to remain with the global or with the “humanocentric,” as Dipesh Chakrabarty has articulated.4 If we have to find a new way of inhabiting the earth, which is what Achille Mbembe has recommended, then I think we can no longer be purely anthropocentric and exclusively concerned with our needs as humans.5 The non-human is deeply interconnected with our lives, and we have to develop a new sense of care and vigilance and respect for how we are plundering habitats and destroying environments. That’s one thing.

I also found that the pandemic produced in me a lot of empathy in relation to suffering. That’s fine. But with empathy, I think you also need critique. You need to understand, why is this happening? Why are people suffering in this way? More often than not, it comes down to the indifference of governments and systems that don’t really care for the lives of people, which is what happened in India during the pandemic and continues to happen today. People were left to their own resources.

As you may be aware, there was a four-hour notice given to the entire nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a total lockdown. In essence, the government was telling the nation’s population, particularly those belonging to migrant communities: Go home. So, millions and millions of workers—they had no transportation, no food, no healthcare, they had no other choice but to go home, which, in actuality, meant walking across the borders of different states, crossing highways to reach their villages in remote corners of the country. What kind of a world is this? To address its cruelty and injustice, I felt that it was crucial to balance empathy with critique.

The other takeaway from the pandemic, I guess, would be the need to realize the value and necessity of interconnectedness. We cannot be islands unto ourselves. And this interconnectedness, of course, needs to extend, as I earlier mentioned, to inter-species affinities or developing a new kind of care and love for the non-human. At another level, interconnectedness has to extend to our understanding of knowledge. It’s not through one way of thinking in which knowledge can be conceived. We have to work across different knowledge systems, including the ecological. And all of this needs to be relayed and incorporated into the way we teach theatre. This is very important for me. This is a critical moment where we have to rethink what we’re doing in the classroom. Yes, at the level of decoloniality, but also, I would say at the level of a new ecological awareness of the planetary, which is very inadequately inscribed in our curriculum and teaching methods. I can see it being an emergent force in some scholarship, but there’s not enough of it.

CN: Absolutely. There’s so much there. Where do you see theatre and performance studies as a discourse going in the future? Or where does it need to go, that it hasn’t been yet? I also wonder, particularly with your expertise in intercultural performance, the conversation that we’re having about journals needing to be anti-racist and to advance ideals of diversity, inclusion and equity, how do you see any number of those elements moving forward in the field?

RB: Well, for me, I’ve been working on interculturalism since 1977 and I haven’t stopped. So, briefly, for me, 1977–87 was primarily focused on a critique of Eurocentrism in relation to intercultural performance practice. In 1986, I returned to India and there was a shift in my thinking at that time from the intercultural to the intracultural, which I regret to say, has never really caught on in the academic world as a theoretical category. The intracultural, of course, being that very tense, vital area of research where you’re dealing with very minute, almost infinitesimal, internalized differences, not across nation states, but within regions and localities. There’s nothing fiercer than that. Those little differences can be very virulent, and that kind of intracultural research continues to fuel a lot of my work on minorities. So, for example, at the moment I am revisiting my earlier research on the Siddi community, persons of African origin who are barely 40,000 in India, scattered in different regions of the country, who speak different languages and practice different religions. The intracultural differences of the Siddi community are very significant. But, of course, they all tend to get homogenized by the color of their skin and the stigma imposed on them. So, I take intraculturalism very seriously. You have to stop thinking of cultural differences only existing “out there”: cultural differences are right where you are in your own neighborhood and within the borders of your country. That’s where you have to pay very close attention because you may not be able to see those differences. They’re so invisible.

From the 1990s onward, I moved into a kind of inter-Asian critical inquiry which compelled me to write a book that I fear is not read by theatre scholars, maybe because it’s too literary: Another Asia, which talks about the conversation that took place between Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin. Tagore is one of the great cultural icons of India and a virulent anti-nationalist. No critic in the world is more witheringly scathing of nationalism than Tagore. In contrast, Okakura Tenshin [Kakuzō], one of the earliest global cosmopolitan, pan-Asian curators was nationalist in his own right. So, I was interested in exploring how these two antagonistic relationships to nationalism could be subsumed within the dynamics of friendship.

At this point in time, I’m interested in the intersection of interculturality and decoloniality, and this has already been quite finely formulated by Catherine Walsh, an activist-scholar in the field of decolonial studies linked to Andean Latin American social and political movements. I’m always interested in challenging epistemologies and not trying to work within one framework of an epistemology. Catherine Walsh is working within a framework that is quite different from anything we engage with in Euro-American academic culture because this discourse is linked to indigenous movements in countries like Ecuador and Bolivia.6 Significantly, one of the things I’ve been finding in my writings on interculturalism is how vital the indigenous is. To be honest, I was not consciously aware of this dimension in my writing, but when I look back on the body of the work and I ask, “What were the critical moments, the moments of departure in my thinking?,” I find that they all are linked to indigenous cultures in one form or the other. I have to acknowledge that I’m quite startled by that, because I was not aware of it. But now that I am much more aware of it, I want to engage with the role of the indigenous in relation to the intercultural. The “indigenous” is not one entity; it exists in many different modes and formations but there are some common principles underlying its different contexts and manifestations. So, I would like to engage more closely with this discourse as I move in the direction of interculturality and decoloniality.

On the question of diversity, I’m very clear that diversity should not be seen as a feel-good category. Unfortunately, in many countries across the world, particularly in the US and the UK, it’s like something you have to aspire towards. The goal is to aspire towards “a more diverse curriculum, a more diverse student body,” which is not a bad thing in itself. But the point is that diversity is seen in an aspirational kind of mode. Now, in India, the ground reality is that diversity is a given. You’re living with twenty-two national languages, you’re working with eight scripts, you’re interacting with any number of diversities across performance traditions, and so on and so forth. Here again, though, we have to be careful. The Indian state would love to valorize diversities and proclaim “Unity in Diversity.” That’s the mantra that we grew up with in India. I think the important point to keep in mind is that diversities cannot be separated from disparities and discriminations and inequities, but we don’t want to deal with these problems. We want to hold on to the feel-good quality of diversity.

So, for example, when you’re thinking of an indigenous community, the gut response could be, “Wow, what a great culture they have, what dances they have, look at their headdresses, look at all of that.” But are you really examining their poverty? Are you really examining the extraction of natural resources from their communities and so on? Perhaps not. So, diversity is a complex category. And my simple submission is that the fatal mistake we tend to make is when we equate diversity with plurality. We tend to assume that if you live in a diverse society that you are necessarily part of a pluralist society and that is not the case. Certainly, in India, we are prodigiously diverse, but we can hardly call ourselves a pluralist society at this point in time, given the communal tensions and the politics of hate that divides the country. I would say that we have to work towards plurality. Diversity is a resource, certainly. But it’s how you mobilize those diversities, how you engage with diversities—that’s the important task that lies ahead.

CN: So in that sense, you see a truly pluralistic society as having engaged with its diversity alongside the inequities.

RB: Yes, absolutely. Pluralism involves a negotiation of difference. So, if you just want to uphold diversity and you don’t want to deal with difference in all its manifestations, you’re not going to get anywhere. Then diversity becomes tokenistic. And then we fall into all the traps of political correctness and a certain kind of patronization of minorities. I think that is not productive. On the contrary, if we have the capacity to really engage with differences critically, and do something about those differences, then I think there’s a better chance of moving towards a more pluralist society. That’s my submission.

CN: My final question is, how do you see our discipline and even the role of journals like Theatre Journal being able to contribute to that? Or is there enough discourse and now there just needs to be more action or embodied praxis? But I’m curious to bring it back to the topic we’re exploring as a journal, to the question of where the journal has been and where is it going and how can it contribute to these sorts of goals.

RB: Well, I think the social networks have made a big difference in terms of critical discourse. In one of my lectures on “Theatre and the Coronavirus,” I talk about public assemblies in the context of Black Lives Matter and other such movements. In a particular section in Episode Six, I address how during the pandemic when theatres were shut down there were very animated discussions taking place on social networks. I draw on the somewhat unusual example of Hamilton, the Broadway musical—the biggest, the most unaffordable of musicals. It’s an extraordinary musical, in my view. But are you going to be able to afford to see it is another question. Certainly, the large percentage of African Americans living in New York City would not be able to afford to see Hamilton. But then Disney came along and distributed a really badly recorded version of a brilliant production with extraordinary performers, which is how I accessed the musical in the first place. There was a torrent of critical responses to the musical on the social networks which I don’t think you can afford to ignore. I followed the discussion on the networks and I was very impressed by the critical comments that I was reading and the way in which individual performances were being analyzed.

Drawing on this example, I think we’ve moved quite a long way from the time when I was as a student at the Yale School of Drama, where we were supposed to aspire towards writing reviews for The New York Times or whatever. The figure of the reviewer-critic, which was so popular at one time, and which did feed some of the writings in Theatre Journal and other journals as well, is somewhat passé today. I think that critical discourse has to be a lot more dialogical, even more conversational. It doesn’t always have to work with the protocols of academia. In fact, I always tell dramaturgy students to write like dramaturgs. Don’t write like literary scholars. That’s of no use. It’s not that I disdain literary scholarship, but I feel that dramaturgy has different discursive strategies and ways of speaking and intervening.

As a final comment, I would like to say that journals can no longer afford to ignore what’s happening in the virtual world, in the electronic world, because that’s what young people are listening to and engaging with all the time. However, there is still a value to be drawn from reading a serious scholarly article, slowly and attentively. There’s a discipline involved in that, and I’m afraid that discipline is increasingly missing in the pedagogy of students. I believe that there is less and less history. Young practitioners don’t want to deal with history. They only want to focus on what they want to do. My question would be, how can you presume to know what you want to do if you don’t know if it’s already been done? There are certain kind of legacies and genealogies that need to be engaged with at creative levels. I would like to see a balance between the kind of critical writing that Theatre Journal has nurtured over the years and an openness at the same time to a different kind of conversation with a wider public on the social networks and podcasts. I feel that this is another way of reaching out. And I think it is important that we learn to speak in different modes and not stick to one way of speaking or one way of writing.

CN: Well, I think you’ve exemplified that over your whole career and the work you’ve produced since the pandemic.

RB: Thank you.



1. Ania Loomba, “‘Local-Manufacture Made-in-India Othello Fellows’: Issues of Race, Hybridity and Location in Post-Colonial Shakespeares,” in Post-Colonial Shakespeares, ed. Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (London: Routledge, 1998), 155–175.

2. John Russell Brown, New Sites for Shakespeare: Theatre, the Audience and Asia (London: Routledge, 1999).

3. See “Theatre and the Coronavirus,” sponsored and produced by International Research Centre/Interweaving Performance Cultures, Berlin, available at

4. Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (Chicago :The University of Chicago Press, 2021).

5. Achille Mbembe, “Thoughts on the Planetary: An Interview with Achille Mbembe,” in Decolonising the Neoliberal University: Law, Psychoanalysis and the Politics of Student Protest, ed. Jaco Barnard-Naude (Abingdon: Birkbeck, 2022), 122–136.

6. Catherine E. Walsh, “Interculturality and Decoloniality,” in On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Practice, ed. Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh (Durham: Duke University Press), 57–80.