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Drama _8_


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									                                              ZENTRUM FÜR SÜD-NORD-

                                             CENTRE FOR SOUTH-NORTH
                                          COOPERATION IN EDUCATIONAL
                                              RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
                                              Telefon: +49 (0)441 798 3131

Drama in Education in Desegregated Schools with Disadvantaged
Learners - Remarks from a Post-Colonial and Anti-Bias Perspective

                                                     Wolfgang Nitsch
                                                         Januar 2007
Drama in Education in Desegregated Schools with Disadvantaged
Learners - Remarks from a Post-Colonial and Anti-Bias Perspective

How is experience-oriented and anti-bias education possible within social contexts of
continuing racist, sexist and social classist domination, between teachers and
disadvantaged learners from diverse social backgrounds and in formally desegregated

In several ways educational drama-work could function as a bridge between the
relatively privileged teachers (and some of the learners) and the severely disadvantaged
learners in these schools. However, for this purpose several practices of role-
transformation and role-
switching are necessary for the groups involved in phases of drama-in-education in the

The teacher has to transform herself into, or is to be substituted by, a semi-professional
drama-facilitator or drama-director (Spielleiter) representing the new educational
medium ‘drama’. In this role he/she is not representing (as an authority) the institution
(school or college) nor is he or she performing as a kind of professional advocate of the
subaltern and disadvantaged learners as ‘clients’.
The school or college students switch for a given phase into the role of an individual and
group-attached participant of a workshop- or project-community with its own rules and
In the process of this learning project (cf. a unit of several lessons) or workshop they
switch again from the role of a self-reflective participant into the roles of particular social
characters (as part of the drama role play) and they perform under the shelter of the
drama-project rules (protected by the director or facilitator).
Again, as part of the ongoing process, they switch back from the role of a social
character in the position of an individual participant in the drama-project or workshop,
sharing their
perception, feed-back and part of their self-reflection with the other participants and the
Parallel to this, the facilitator will switch, in particular situations, into acting in-role (a)as
an imagined dialogue partner for participants acting in the role of one of the social
characters or (b) as one of the social characters within the plot of the drama scene or
(c)he/she will go into the position of a second alter ego (Hilfs-Ich) of one of the social
characters (thus supporting the participant who has taken the role of this character). In
this way he will accelerate and support the drama-process. However, he/she has to be
careful not to determine the direction and content of the ongoing play process
according to his/her aims and wishes.
At certain stages the facilitator will also switch from the facilitator role into the role of an
individual participant reflecting and expressing his/her own feelings and valuations and
sharing these with the group of participants. However, this should be done only provided
that the participants will understand and recognize this separation. Only after switching
back into the role of the responsible teacher (or by formally handing over the facilitation
from the drama-director to the teacher) will it be possible to introduce learning situations
and materials based on specific aims and rules of the official curriculum by the
teacher/examiner in charge, in order to connect outcomes of the learning process
during the drama-phase with other recognized curriculum content or in order to correct
and criticize attitudes and opinions expressed during the drama-phase.

In cases and contexts where the facilitator belongs to a relatively privileged social group
- whereas most or all of the participants/learners come from socially and culturally
disadvantaged communities (with their internal conflicts and separations) - it will be
important that the participants get an opportunity to perform as social characters with
dominant or suppressive roles and as those with roles of dominated or suppressed
groups or of outsiders. They should be able to experience the feelings and thoughts
connected with switching from the role of a dominant person to that of a dominated
person (and viceversa) or from the role of an oppressor who is also oppressed to the
role of an oppressed person who is also oppressing others (cf. male vs. female,
indigenous vs. non-indigenous, hetero vs. gay/lesbian within a socially disadvantaged
community, as elaborated in the Anti-Bias Training Handbook “Shifting Paradigms”
published by Early Learning Resource Unit, Cape Town). .

In cases and contexts where the participants from a disadvantaged group are being
educated and trained for professional tasks and careers beyond their socio-cultural
background or origin (i.e. teacher-education, education for social or health work)
experience-oriented       self-reflective   drama-in-education should be extended or
supplemented with behaviour-drama or drama-in-training for developing professional
attitudes and practices (Arbeit an beruflichen Haltungen) and performance competences
(Auftritts-Fähigkeiten). This is not a purely instrumental role- and behaviour-training (like
in conventional micro-teaching training) but it will comprise elements of it. The trainees
and students are educated and trained for professional roles that are part of an
ambivalent or contradictory system of domination, economic efficiency and individual
self-empowerment or even status-group empowerment and they have to integrate
contradicting role elements or different roles into their system-dependent professional
social identity and relate this to their personal identity and possibly also to a political
social identity, if they are associated with a particular social or political movement.

Hilarion Petzold, a German psychotherapist and philosopher has developed a
programme for an extended multi-phase process of drama-work with groups of
professionals in therapy, social work or education. The participants in this programme
will move from a phase of personal experience-focussed drama to drama focussed on
distant social groups and contexts as well as to drama work for developing personal and
professional role-related new behaviour patterns and attitudes. In this last phase the
drama-facilitator has to switch partly to the role of a professional role-behaviour-trainer
and partly to that of a coach. He will assist the trainees in finding and experimenting with
personalized and role-dependent performing styles to be incorporated in postures,
gestures, practices in particular situations and settings of professional practice and to be
reflected as compromises and combinations of divergent roles:
   -   the personal self with its limits and visions,
   -   the prescribed role within a dominating organisation or professional status
   -   the role of a responsible client-centred advocacy professional
   -   the role of a political or social activist acting partly according to the interests
       expressed by suppressed social groups and partly according to the interests of
       his/her own professional group.

Experiential and investigative/inquiring drama-in-education has an in-built logic or
quality working in favour or facilitating potentialities of the ‘subaltern’, disempowered and
silenced groups within a given social field –
   -   by making their existence and presence visible and sensible, perceivable,
       touchable, similar to particular social drama scenes during critical incidents or in
       exceptional and transgressive situations in everyday social life, in public places
       or in hierarchical professional-client- relationships (cf. the empirical studies by
       Erving Goffman),
   -   by providing, at the same time, a sheltered transitional or ‘potential space’
       (Ronald.Winnicott) that reduces inhibitions, anxieties, speechlessness,
   -   by providing subaltern or marginalized groups - who are inhibited verbally (at
       least in the language of instruction) - with a potentially empowering medium of
       non-verbal expression and communication and by limiting and irritating the
       dominant verbal and discursive modes of communication,
   -   by legitimizing also performances or expressions of anti-social feelings, impulses
       and actions both on the part of oppressive(and oppressed) groups as well as of
       oppressed (and oppressive) groups, as far as they are surfacing within the
       sheltered space of drama-work,
   -   by providing a medium for perceiving, understanding, reflecting very complex or
       mixed or ambivalent social-situational and socio-biographical settings, histories
       and their domination-related contexts.

However, the most important and difficult aim of (anti-bias) drama-in-education across
the lines of colour, gender /sex and social class is to establish a balance between (a)the
acting-out and performing (within the experimental sheltered space of drama) of anti-
social and (self)destructive feelings, fantasies and impulses of participants who are
involved in dominance/submission relationships or settings of powerlessness,
resignation and apathy and on the other hand, (b) experimenting with feelings,
fantasies and actions of ‘solidarity empowerment’ as a sharing of resources and
potentialities with the distant social other, as against an egocentric and ethnocentric
empowerment according to the rules of the game for the survival of the fittest.

In addition, we have to consider that there are very different anti-social or self-
destructive feelings and attitudes that could be voiced by different groups:
- attitudes of legitimizing power and dominance and related anxieties on the part of
participants (e.g. in desegregated, formerly privileged schools) from a social status
background of domination and privilege (‘the new white men’s and women’s burden’ or
the burden of a new multi-ethnic elite),
- the feelings and attitudes of legitimized and internalized submission, helplessness and
apathy or of hatred and counter-aggression generated by humiliation experiences or of
‘compensating’ oppressive impulses towards other oppressed groups, on the part of
participants from severely disadvantaged and dominated groups,
- an underlying common feeling of being dependent on or absorbed into a powerful
system and game for the survival of the fittest , on the part of the winners as well of the
losers ,
- connected partly with a need for identification with a powerful imagined community
(nation or ethnic community or multi-national company) compensating for the experience
of separation, isolation, powerlessness or for anxieties connected with dominant or
privileged positions.

Within a post-colonial / post-apartheid desegregated and socially heterogeneous school
system it is decisive that drama-work in education (as well as in the social and health
services) is utilized and understood as a potential trans-cultural and trans-social ‘inter-

medium’. Therefore it should not be misunderstood or practised either as a European
white cultural medium (in the Aristotelian theatre-tradition, e.g. with the concept of an
‘invisible fourth wall’ between actors and the audience) nor as a traditional Oriental and
African medium for immersion into spiritual and healing ceremonies and rituals (story
telling, praise rhetoric, hypnotic exercises).Instead it should operate as a culturally open,
(relatively neutral)      lingua franca medium for the expression of socio-cultural
experiences of learners and teachers (clients and social and health workers) from very
different backgrounds and within an artificially created sheltered space and as an a-
typical provocative space within or at the margins of the formal education and social
service systems.

Drama-in-education is a bridge-building inter-medium between different socio-cultural
life-worlds of learners and teachers on the one hand and the universal modernizing
patterns and roles of the public or state school system (social and health service
Drama-in-education is of course not completely neutral, but combines elements of the
European and the Oriental and African traditions of theatre and drama work:

   -   These drama practices switch between three settings: (a) situations and settings
       of (micro)community action involving all participants present (in a school class or
       as groups of employees of a work unit in a plant or service institution), (b)
       situations when the group of participants will be split (for a limited time) into a
       group of actors and a group of listeners and observers (and viceversa) – and with
       an invisible wall between them, and (c) situations of a small public forum where
       the ‘audience’ is interacting verbally and supported by means and practices of
       dramatization (frozen images, public interviewing in-role and others) with the
       group of actors or participants in-role.
   -   This is possible because drama-in-education in one of its traditions has been
       based on the new work-place related functional and artificial communities of
       employees (and their public sphere) in a factory or office, the proletarian
       workmanship-public (Proletarische Belegschaftsöffentlichkeit) and their
       assemblies or rallies (cf. Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstück-collectives or Augusto Boal’s
       Forum Theatre as a Theatre of the Oppressed, with their assemblies in public
   -   Another related tradition that has been first secularized and then universalized is
       that of the post-traditional secular healer working in non-traditional small
       communities or groups (related to community or health centres or to work-places)
       sharing experiences, feelings, fantasies and inspiring or stimulating the psycho-
       social personal and group resources for an informal social healing, conflict-
       resolution or reconciliation process (cf. Jakob Moreno’s socio-drama sessions).
Therefore, drama-in-education and theatre-in-education (as against educational
professional theatre) based on Brecht, Moreno and Boal is part of a modern working
class based public cultural media sphere that originated in Europe and Latin America,
but has become universal. Especially it has been attached to the universal public school
system, as a kind of non-formal but regulated educational sphere, mediating between
the state (as owner of the school and legitimate agency of the public interest) and the
related civic stake holders (communities, parents, learners and teachers as semi-
autonomous professionals).

Thus we can distinguish between five dimensions or layers for situating drama-in-
education as a politically relevant process of learning and conflict-resolution:

(1) the local ‘feeding communities’ of schools or colleges with their own social life
drama events and practices, some of them with their own less recognized or valued
mother-tongue languages,
(2) the state school or college as a formalized systemic social drama within an
hierarchical system of governance and a dominating language of instruction (with
teachers as state officials or employees and as examiners and with learners as
dependent pupils and cases for assessment),
(3) an informal public civic sphere (Öffentlichkeit) within the school or college as an
imagined partnership community of learners and facilitators,
(4) within this sphere an artificially sheltered space of drama-in-education as a more
intensive medium of (social and subject-related) investigative learning (with learners
transforming into participants in a drama-in-education micro-community and going into
the roles of different social characters and with teachers transforming into, or being
substituted by, drama-facilitators acting as drama directors and as facilitator-in-role),
(5) an even more intensive or intimate sheltered space of socio-drama work either (a) as
a medium of preventive or current conflict resolution and ‘social healing’ in group
processes among learners or (b) as a supervision or coaching of groups of teachers,
student teachers or (learner) peer group leaders/moderators (with facilitators
transforming into socio-therapeutic drama directors, supervisors or coaches and with
teachers or students as clients in a socio-therapeutic drama-group).

The ad-hoc created micro-community of drama-in-education participants and facilitators
operating within a desegregated school (college or community centre) could be
interpreted as a fragment of a kind of ‘collective organic intellectual’ (Antonio Gramsci)
presenting and describing or reporting on - as against representing and interpreting -
the local community of disadvantaged ‘subaltern’ people who are not yet able to act as a
conscious social and political actor of resistance or collective social emancipation.

The facilitators who are mostly not members of the local ‘underclass’ but of the educated
lower middle class (may be partly with a lower social class origin) cooperate with the
participants of the drama-in-education learning community in presenting, describing,
reporting (on) the situations, problems, expectations and the potential minor resistance
resources of local disadvantaged and marginalized groups. These ethnographic
dramatized portraits or case descriptions are produced both through presentative/
sensual symbolic codes (gestures, postures, miming, movement, rhythm, singing, using
musical instruments, handling objects and clothing etc) and partly through verbal
discursive symbolic codes (by writing, reading aloud, producing comics, conversation
and discussion). In this way the collective micro-actor ‘drama-in-education project
community’ is a combination of consciously reflecting and acting ‘organic intellectuals’
and of non-conscious or pre-conscious ‘actants’ or implicit agents , i.e. the expressed
emotions, sensual and body practices of the participants who in many instances and
situations of their lives can not ‘speak’ (cf.. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Can the
Subaltern Speak? 1988) , in the sense of a discourse, but who do express their
emotions, anxieties, expectations and hopes.
Using the medium drama-in-education is to some extent safeguarding that the
facilitators will not impose or imprint their own political, ideological or spiritual image and
concept of the suppressed subaltern people, their lives and (best) interests, thus
substituting their consciousness by posing as the representatives of subaltern people.
At the same time the medium is safeguarding that the subaltern people are not just
‘echoing’ or repeating a verbal discourse conceived and prescribed by the facilitators,
because this medium is enforcing that they express themselves predominantly by
presentative expressive symbolic codes, which are not completely understood and can
not be manipulated by the facilitators. Thus part of the controversy between Spivak and
the Subaltern Study Groups (in India and Latin America) and the followers of Foucault
and Deleuze on (re)presentation of the subaltern or ‘infamous’/defamed people could
be resolved: It is a common fear among political intellectuals seemingly activating and
representing ‘the poor’ or marginalized and subaltern groups that these people will act
anti-social, regressive, self-destructive or will identify submissively with their old and new
‘masters’. Therefore their ‘real’ or ‘purified’ interest in collective emancipation or
liberation will have to be represented and guided by the intellectual political avant-garde.
Foucault and Deleuze have responded to that infamous tradition by proclaiming that the
progressive intellectuals have to be silenced and that subaltern people will have to be
able to express their expectations and interests themselves. Spivak and others have
criticized this position as a negative reaction and a denial of political responsibility and
solidarity on the part of intellectuals. They have advocated that it is the responsibility of
the intellectuals not to represent politically and theoretically, but to present, i.e. describe
and express and produce different versions of descriptive reports on the social
situations, histories and expectations of subaltern people (cf. Castro Varela / Dhawan:
Postkoloniale Theorie, 2005, pp.73-75). They should speak to, instead of speaking for
somebody, or rehearse or perform on somebody’s actions instead of producing texts
which are representing somebody’s interest as his ’real’ voice. However, it remains
unclear whether it is possible to present and describe somebody’s situation and
expectations without interpretive representation altogether.

Drama-in-education with disadvantaged groups is a resource and medium for
stimulating and provoking – within a sheltered space or site – self-descriptive symbolic
expressions of subaltern people’s feelings and wishes even though these symbolic
expressions are not fully conscious and discursive acts.

Thus, drama-in-education - as against theatre in education as an intervening and
activating force – can serve as a safeguard against the bias inherent in external
ethnographic studies about subaltern living conditions and lives, generated by
intellectuals as inquiring, investigative writers or even by playwrights producing
ethnographic plays. Drama-in-education is in itself an anti-bias medium, not only an
instrument f o r anti-bias education.

But we have also to consider that drama-in-education is not only necessary in order to
overcome the disabling of the subaltern to speak, but even more in order to overcome
the barriers or inabilities to listen and to perceive on the part of the less disadvantaged
or the ex-subaltern people. This can be promoted either by a particular reflective
learning process on the part of the facilitators (in supervision groups) and /or by similar
learning processes among those participants in drama-in-education projects who are in
a transitory upward mobile position, departing from their earlier subaltern life (cf. the so
called scholarship boys, first generation upward mobile working class boys, analyzed by
Richard Hoggart in the Fifties in Britain). These groups of upward mobile ex-subaltern
learners have developed psychological defense mechanisms working against listening
to the expressions of subaltern life and lives by their ex-peers or families of origin. Only
by introducing spaces and sites of imaginative interaction with drama or creative

expression and by offering sheltered settings will it be possible to recreate and express
these emotions, imaginations, anxieties and expectations that can not be constructed or
understood easily by intellectuals who are not sharing in practice the life of subaltern or
marginalized people. Their symbolic expression will function as irritating blank spaces
surfacing in the coherent world view of the educated. Spivak has developed a
deconstructive reflection of literary documents comprising aspects and features of the
lives of subaltern women (short stories written by Mahashweta Devi: Breast Stories,
Calcutta 1998). Her intentions could be practised even better by using the medium of
drama-in-education for interpreting literary and visual documents from subaltern lives by
involving subaltern women in literary drama workshops together with less disadvantaged
women of similar origin.(cf. the chapter on drama-in-education as a medium for
interpreting short stories on the lives and conditions of disadvantaged and marginalized
people in Ingo Scheller: Szenische Interpretation, 2004; and for short stories from
South Africa as possible sources for similar drama-in-education units and workshops
see: Linda Rode et al.: Crossing over. Stories for a new South Africa, 1995; see also
A.L.Müller and I.Scheller: Annäherung an das Fremde: Menschen in Schwarzafrika und
wir, Oldenburg 1993, a manual for drama-in-education workshops based on literary
documents written by African authors)..

Topics and challenges for facilitators and participants in drama-in-education work
in desegregated schools / colleges with disadvantaged learners

(1) Socio-biographic experiences

(a) for teachers / facilitators:

   -   understanding one’s own social background and origin as a relatively privileged
       or even racist person or as an upward mobile person from a disadvantaged and
       prejudice-prone family and local community,
   -   understanding the transition from such a social background into a newly defined
       professional social identity and its contradictions

(b) for learners / participants

   -   understanding the social background of parents and ancestors and their social
       class, gender and ethnicity rules and values,
   -   understanding the motivation and ambivalence connected with an upward mobile
       learner career or with a learner position without any career prospects, as a girl or
       a boy.

(2) Experiences with the distant social other

(a) for teachers / facilitators

   -   biographical phases /stages and present situations of relating to distant
       ‘underclass’ groups or disadvantaged ethic groups (with or without any limited
   -   experiences with the otherness of the future clients and learners in disadvantaged

(b) for learners / participants

   -   experiences with the distant or negatively attributed social other within the
       underclass world: xenophobia, racism, homophobia,
   -   experiences with the otherness of teachers, social workers seen from below

(3) Experiences with role-switching and the medium drama

(a) for teachers / facilitators

   -   reflecting the initiation into the role-switching from teacher / social worker to
       drama-facilitator and to professional trainer/coach and also to the role of a
       sharing individual within the shelter of a drama unit or micro-workshop with
       participants of divergent (higher /lower) socio-cultural background

(b) for learners / participants

   -   reflecting different experiments with going into the role and shelter of ‘performing’
       and taking the role of a social character and of sharing connected emotional
       experiences with others and even with a facilitator or other learners from a
       different (higher/lower) socio-cultural background

(4) Experiences in investigating and sharing critical (psycho)social problems and
challenges of disadvantaged and marginalized groups

(a) for teachers / facilitators

   -   understanding the expectations and challenges as facilitator in guiding drama-in-
       education on problems connected with domination and oppression: violence,
       sexual domination, drug addiction, poverty-related illness and HIV/AIDS
   -   understanding the post-colonial prolongation of a structural and culturalized
       racism and sexism by the promotion of a new ‘black’ middle class and by
       transforming explicit racism into a euro-centric culture of middle-class
       commercialism and socio-Darwinist self-exploitation.

(b) for learners / participants

   -   understanding the challenges of internalized or delegated racism and sexism
       among disadvantaged and oppressed groups, generated by a social system of
       domination and exploitation
   -   understanding the crisis and predicaments of the second lost generation of
       children and youth (including HIV/AIDS-orphans) within a partly booming new
       South Africa

(5) Investigating and experimenting with developing professional and political
identities and role-transitions related to a system of dominance

(a) for teachers / facilitators

    -    reflection and training of drama-facilitator attitudes and practices (Haltungen)
within a     sheltered space of a professional community,

   -    utilizing the sheltered potentialities of drama-in-education for investigating and
developing individual potentials and configurations of professional, political, personal
and client-centred identities.

(b) for learners / participants

   -   initiating and training of drama-participant attitudes and practices in a sheltered
       potential space,
   -   using the sheltered potential space for developing new individual configurations of
       formal learner/student identities, political identities and personal identities and
       developing awareness of the resulting ambivalences (a) of upward mobility
       through education and /or (b) of survival within poverty and marginal
       communities and the informal and subsistence economy.

Wolfgang Nitsch      1/2007


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