Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston. “quiet theater: The Radical Politics of Silence.” Cultural Studies / Critical Methodologies 18.6 (2018): 410-22.
Beautifully-written and evocatively argued, Kazubowski-Houston’s article movingly describes her research with Romani women living in Poland, and particularly her work with Randia, an elderly woman who devises and acts out scenarios with the author as a form of “imaginary ethnography.” Combining anthropological methods with techniques drawn from theatre and drama, the use of storytelling, characterization, and imagination in interviews reframes the ethnographic process as one that can “conjure up new ways of being, dreams, and desires, and shift focus toward what surfaces, sprouts, and promises.” Situating her own identity as a diasporic subject who moves, more-or-less freely but never without complication, between Canada and Poland, Kazubowski-Houston models a scholarship that makes space for deep personal investment while remaining rigorous in thought and tightly focused on the subjects with whom she works. Performing with Randia, letting the research subject determine the role played by the researcher, defines an ethical space in which “‘sitting quiet and listening’ […] might mean taking into consideration perspectives that might not easily align with our own Western scholarly training.” Arguing that even silence and discomfort can be generative places to conduct research that is both rigorous and creative, Kazubowski-Houston describes a radical form of “quiet theatre” that we would all do well to sit and listen to, and for which this important article strongly merits this year’s Richard Plant Award.
2019 Committee: Heather Fitzsimmons-Frey (Co-Chair), Justin Blum (Co-Chair), Kim Byr