Ric Knowles, Performing the Intercultural City (U of Michigan Press, 2017).
It is our honour to present the 2018 Ann Saddlemyer Award to Ric Knowles for his book Performing the Intercultural City, published by University of Michigan Press. The result of a multiyear research program by a leading scholar, using archival and performance research methods, Performing the Intercultural City is both a scholarly documentation of intercultural theatre practices and the product of an intercultural collaborative process. Of particular note is Knowles’ investment in reciprocal relations, as the book documents research not on but with theatre companies, and his contributions back to the companies he was working with. This “insider” perspective enriches analysis but (perhaps more importantly) models how Indigenous research methods might be practiced in performance research.
Knowles contextualizes Toronto’s intercultural theatres in terms of the national “multicultural text” that took form in the 1960s, and he shows how the “poster city for Canadian identity” is alive, not only in terms of richness of the quantity and diversity of its productions, but also (and mostly) through relational aesthetics. He draws on Nicolas Bourriaud’s reading of Deleuze and Guattari to deploy key concepts such as rhizomes, radicants, networks and meshwork to evoke a unique theatrical ecosystem that “has been generative since at least the mid-1980s” and which can provide multiple keys to undergo similar work on other cities. We can all learn from his integration of a complex, practice-based and collaborative theoretical framework – including performance ecology, actor-network theory, and heterotopics. The book’s analysis of case studies, applied not only to Indigenous performance but to a range of intercultural performances, recognizes the primacy of Indigenous worldviews in spaces of performance in Toronto, with its core principles such as relational accountability, reciprocity, respect, and responsibility.
It is our pleasure to present the Ann Saddlemyer Award to Ric Knowles for this erudite, engaged, ethically compelling, and highly readable accomplishment.